Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Movie Review: The Martian (2015)

Movie: The Martian (2015)

Director: Ridley Scott

Writer: Drew Goddard (screenplay), Andy Weir (novel)

Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Michael Pena, Sean Bean, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Donald Glover, & Mackenzie Davis 

One-Line Plot Synopsis: A mission to Mars leaves behind an astronaut (Damon) that is presumed dead after a storm, who must fend for himself on the desolate planet until a rescue mission can be sent back to try and save him.

Along with The Revenant, The Martian may be the other front-runner in the Best Picture race at this point, so I was more than looking forward to catching this movie.  Having already won the Golden Globe for Best Picture in the Comedy or Musical category (how is this a comedy of musical?), and with a star-studded cast and a seasoned science-fiction director in Ridley Scott, this was pretty much right in everyone's wheelhouse that was involved.  To be honest, I was just hoping that Matt Damon was as good in this as he was in his small role in Interstellar.  I've heard some conspiracy theories as to if these two movies are actually somehow intertwined, but I can't really see how that would work with such different ending outcomes.  Still, it's fun to talk about.

Matt Damon is absolutely great in the lead role.  He has to take so much of the movie on his shoulders as there are long stretches where it's just him on the screen.  It really makes you appreciate what Tom Hanks was able to pull off in Cast Away.  Hanks had his volleyball Wilson and Damon had his potato plants.  It did help Damon that he had video recording equipment that he could explain certain feelings and situations to, but still an incredibly tough role to pull off for any actor.  Damon makes this movie and pushes it to a level that most actors wouldn't be able to.  He's really great in this film and definitely deserves that Best Actor Oscar Nomination that he got.

The supporting cast is deep and filled out with some real talent.  Chiwetel Ejiofor is great as the main person at NASA who is able to slowly communicate with Damon.  Jessica Chastain is perfect for her role as the Captain of the Mars mission and her cast of Michael Pena (always a welcome sight), Kate Mara (my preferred Mara), Sebastian Stan (I loved the prematurely cancelled show KINGS), and Askel Hennie (my dude from one of my all-time favorite foreign movies, Headhunters). 

Then, back at NASA, you have Jeff Daniels as the head of NASA, Mackenzie Davis as an analyst-type (holla Halt & Catch Fire), Donald Glover as a astrodynamics wizard (Childish Gambino for life), and Sean Bean as the one looking out for the crew at all times. 

What the shit was Kristen Wiig doing in this movie?  She pretty much ruined every single scene she was in for me.  I mean, Jeff Daniels tried to pull her up to be somewhere around his level but she didn't seem to want to get up there with him.  Even the reaction shots in the NASA rooms were Jeff Daniels making some sort of face or reaction in her direction and they sometimes wouldn't even show her because she felt so out of place.  Literally put any actual dramatic actress in that role and you get an extra at least half point in the rating.  Wiig did look much better with her hair up at the end.  Maybe that's all she needed.  OK, rant over.

The movie may have run a little long for my liking at 2 hours and 24 minutes, especially when the majority of your focus is on one guy who has no one else to interact with for basically an hour straight.  The pacing didn't really feel all that slow for me however, which makes me wonder what they really could have taken out to trim down the running time.

Although the film has a real bleakness to the situation and circumstances that Damon finds himself in, it manages to mix in some lighter notes so that movie is not dragged down by the helplessness of the character's plight.  I'm hoping that this is a return to form for Ridley Scott as I have been severely underwhelmed by the majority of the last 10 years of his directing including The Counselor, Prometheus, Robin Hood, Body of Lies, and American Gangster.  This is a giant step in the right direction for the iconic director.

Rating: 8/10