The Martian (2015)

Rating: B

Dir: Ridley Scott
Star: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels

An extremely solid slice of hard science-fiction sees astronaut Mark Watney left behind on Mars; a sandstorm separates him from his crew and forces their early departure, believing him dead. He’s not, and regains consciousness to find himself the only human on the planet, and no hope of rescue any time soon. Eventually, ground control back in Houston realizes their mistake, not long after NASA’s director (Daniels) has announced Watney’s death. Whoops. The Mars mission’s director (Ejiofor) has to come up with and execute a mission that can recover Watney, and he has to try and survive until that gets to him.

This includes figuring out a way to grow food and generate water, since the supplies left behind by the mission are not enough to keep him alive until he can be reached. Setbacks are faced, plans radically changed, and previously unattempted acts need to be carried out successfully, if Watney is to have any chance at being rescued. Damn, it’s cool to have a film that puts so much emphasis on success through intelligence, rather than brawn or beauty: as the hero says “I’m left with only one option, I’m gonna have to science the shit out of this,” and that’s exactly what he does, even if the details are left kinda vague in some areas, for understandably cinematic reasons.

Watney also comes with a nice line in dry wit, such as when he says, “I don’t want to come off as arrogant here, but I’m the greatest botanist on this planet,” and the people involved are unashamed nerds, calling the rescue project “Elrond”, a Lord of the Rings reference made glorious by the presence of Sean Bean. I was concerned how they were going to make one guy on a planet interesting, but they manage to work around the concept effectively, and deliver an engaging spectacle that should leave just about anyone with a burning desire to go into space.