This week’s big DVD might not be packed with nail-biting thrills, but a snappy script and strong performance from Matt Damon ensure The Martian is an entertaining trip to a far-off world.
Damon plays botanist Mark Watney, part of an expeditionary scientific team who’ve set up camp on the Red Planet. When a violent storm hits their base Watney is struck down and, believing him to be dead, his fellow space-explorers flee.
With his friends heading back to earth the scientist must rely on his scientific knowledge and dogged resourcefulness to survive until a rescue can be attempted – and he’s not the only one. The whole film is a celebration of ingenuity in the face of danger.
There are no villains in the film apart from the hostile environment of a foreign world and the massive logistical challenges involved in an interplanetary rescue. The protagonists’ ability to cobble together solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems provides much of the drama in the movie.
This means moments of tension are fleeting but Damon brings this script to life, touching on the melancholy of the situation but keeping things upbeat. It’s like Gravity with less gravitas, or Interstellar with one-liners.
Director Ridley Scott has made a career out of bleak sci-fi epics with iconic films like Blade Runner and Alien. This is anything but, navigating stormy waters with an optimistic cheerfulness and an indulgence in the director’s obvious love for all things techie.
Although Damon is ably assisted by a cast packed with talent, including Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels and Chiwetel Ejiofor, science provides the real support.
The whole thing is one Brian Cox and Dara O’Briain double-act away from being a high-budget BBC 4 docu-drama.
It all adds up to make The Martian an entertaining couple of hours. While it lacks the intensity and drama of some of the other big sci-fi hits we’ve had to chew on over the last few years, the film has enough wit and warmth to make it worth watching.