The Martian, featuring Matt Damon, is crushing it at the box offices and pleasing critics alike. So what is it about this space based flick that has so many people rushing to the theaters, while calling it Scot Ridley’s best movie since Blackhawk Down? Let’s find out.
The premise is a bit of Cast Away, without the crippling depression and soccer ball friends. Matt Damon plays Matt Watney, an astronaut who went on a mission to Mars, only to get left behind after his crew gives him up for dead following a storm. The movie is surprisingly simple, with Watney trying to find a way to get home, while the people back at NASA try to get him back. There’s also a lot of film time that features the crew that left him behind. Despite three different storylines and scenes going on, they manage to match it all together pretty seamlessly.
Matt Damon is pretty impressive in this movie, playing the affable and sarcastic Watney with cocky vulnerability. He plays his part with enough humor to keep this from turning into a heart pounding Gravity copy, and instead, making it a bit lighter and fun.
What I loved about this movie was the complete absence of clichés. The only thing working against Matt was time. There are no evil politicians plotting against him, no crazy space aliens or weirdly nefarious rivals bent on his demise. Instead it’s a space movie that focuses on the science of space, rather than the fantastic.
That allowed Matt’s character to create his own urgency, rather than driving it with a cliché like a wife pining away for him at home, or a precocious kid begging the president of NASA to save his daddy. Instead they made Matt likeable enough in his own right to make people root for him.
Both Jessica Chastain and Jeff Daniels play leaders in their own right, with Chastain running the return crew and Daniel’s running the home base in NASA. Both leaders are compassionate and competent, devoutly devoted to bringing Mark home, even as time works against them.
The movie is contained entirely within NASA. There’s no clichéd outside pressure or unnecessary characters. Instead, it plays out much in the same way I’d imagine a real space disaster would play out. The movie allows us to focus on that, without dragging us away into too many superfluous side stories.
For such a serious premise, the movie is surprisingly funny, with more than a few laugh out loud moments. The laughs come from a genuine place and fit in seamlessly, thanks to the excellent writing and surprisingly bare bones premise. It’s a sharp, clever movie that is free from sappy sentimentality.
It’s not just worth the watch. This is a must watch. For anyone who has ever doubted Matt Damon’s acting talent, this movie will make you look at him in a new way. This is a clever, refreshing intelligent movie that doesn’t try to be to high minded. It simply works that way because it was intelligently written.
WE GIVE IT: 4.5 STARS!