Matt Damon stars in The Martian, already promising to be one of the year’s biggest hits. It continues the trend for the fourth year of one mainstream Hollywood film set in space (Prometheus 2012, Gravity 2013 and Interstellar 2014). Matt Damon was likely selected for the role to helm such a massive enterprise because of his track record in headlining lead-focused films (the Bourne series, The Talented Mr. Ripley) as well as his very recent experience in Interstellar of playing, well, a man stranded on another planet. Damon is at his best playing Mark Watney, a NASA astronaut marooned on Mars; he portrays courage, humour, pain and melancholy in a manner that it becomes easy to root for him and identify with his decisions and emotions.
The rest of the cast, involved in generating ideas and executing rescue attempts, have plenty of screen time and with a production of this magnitude, it made sense to have a few supporting heavyweights – Jeff Daniels ably plays the competent but establishment NASA Director, the immensely talented Jessica Chastain is the captain of the mission that mistakenly abandons Matt Damon, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Sean Bean (his constant wry smile will make fans remember him from Game of Thrones) and a few other recognizable faces round off a very strong supporting performance.
On the negative side, the script could have been more fleshed out and wholesome, perhaps with an even greater focus on Matt Damon, and could have dispensed with some unnecessary scenes on earth. There was also an overuse of shots of the general public and crowds, a device I’ve always believed is a cheap gimmick that some filmmakers use to elicit audience participation at the expense of having a stronger script, by playing for the less cerebral area of the brain that every viewer has.
Other than that, The Martian is a very very good film and for the most part quite understated and realistic in its approach to how the story unfolds and how the various players and organisations react. There are several set-pieces that are brilliantly shot – there’s an operation scene that is excruciating and very difficult to watch, then there’s an uplifting few minutes towards the end with the entirety of David Bowie’s Starman playing very appropriately in the background, and a few others. The landscape of Mars, rugged and sandy, bleak and red, was a perfect backdrop and looked realistic enough that you could mistake it for a documentary about the planet (NASA contributed to technical details and visual accuracy).
Watch The Martian, ideally in 3D, for a compelling human drama and a stunning cinematic experience. It’s a movie about the triumph of the human spirit and local and global unity in the face of adversity, themes we desperately need in our culture.
Writer : Rabindra Dube for #JWDFilmReviews @jivewithdeepti