After the disappointing, muddled Prometheus, Ridley Scott returns to sci-fi success with this highly entertaining and atmospheric feature.
Based on the best-selling novel by Andy Weir, it has spectacular scenery, more space hardware than all the Star Wars movies combined and a compelling tale of one man’s ingenuity in the face of adversity.
He is Mark Watney (Matt Damon) left on Mars (presumed dead) after his mission is hit by a thunderous Martian dust storm. With his life-support monitor broken, his crew-mates believe he has died and after a frantic search for him they reluctantly blast off to return to Earth.
But far from being the end of the story, this is just the beginning because Mark, although injured, is very much alive. By the time he’s made it back to the sealed habitation pod, he realises just what a bad situation he is in – all alone on a hostile, arid, airless planet and without enough food to sustain himself until a rescue mission arrives.
Mark, however, is smart and rather than giving up he starts to use the gear he has around him to grow food, make more water and oxygen and try to get a message home letting NASA control know he’s actually far from deceased.
You’d think a film based on one man all on his own could get a bit tedious, but this is never the case as the screen time is split between Mark and the almost hauntingly beautiful red planet, mission control where Chiwetel Ejiofor as Director of Mars Missions tries his hardest to get help to Mark as fast as he can and the returning space ship in which Mark’s crew-mates, led by Jessica Chastain, are still gloriously oblivious that they’ve left a live man behind (NASA won’t tell them the truth because it thinks it will upset them).
There’s far more humour than you’d expect, Matt Damon holds your attention throughout and it is utterly absorbing. This is boy’s own adventure writ and shown large and the fact the science is not only plausible but understandable (unlike Interstellar) just increases the pleasure. It’s also one of the only films in recent months that does justice to its 3D – see this on as big a screen as possible and just marvel at those vast stretches of red sand.