OUT OF THIS WORLD; in Ridley Scott's Best Film for Years, Matt Damon Brings Mars Mesmerisingly to Life

Daily Mail (London), October 2, 2015 | Go to article overview

OUT OF THIS WORLD; in Ridley Scott's Best Film for Years, Matt Damon Brings Mars Mesmerisingly to Life


Byline: Reviews by Brian Viner

The Martian (12A) Verdict: It's Robinson Crusoe, but not as we know it ****

FOR The Martian to come out just days after global headlines stating that water has been discovered on Mars is what film distributors call a cosmically happy coincidence. Either that, or the greatest publicity stunt of all time.

Yet while there is much about Sir Ridley Scott's new film -- things that are difficult to overlook such as the title, the narrative, the dialogue, the acting and the excellent special effects -- that will indeed lead you to believe that it is about inter-planetary travel, really it is the story of Robinson Crusoe, albeit gussied up with a lot of science.

Matt Damon plays astronaut Mark Watney, who on the inaugural manned mission to Mars is left behind, presumed dead, when the rest of the crew, on the order of their commander (Jessica Chastain), have to leave hurriedly during a ferocious storm.

But Mark is alive, and with the next expedition to Mars not due to arrive for another four years, yet only enough food to last him for a matter of weeks, he is in something of a pickle.

For all the complicated astronautical jargon that occasionally makes the narrative difficult to follow for earthbound dullards like me, he acknowledges his predicament with a single, terse word of Anglo- Saxon. Which in the circumstances, is fair enough.

Luckily, however, Mark is not only uncommonly resourceful, but also a trained botanist. There was a time when sciencefiction films made youngsters want to become astronauts; this one might turn them towards horticulture, which never looked more manly.

Helpfully keeping a video diary for the benefit of posterity, Mark works out ways of growing potatoes, generating what we can politely call his own organic compost, that might be beyond even Monty Don.

Meanwhile, back on earth, an eagle-eyed Nasa operative has spotted sure signs that our tuber-reliant hero is still alive.

A rescue mission is plotted, though not without some political cut and thrust between the agency's main decision-makers, played by Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor and, injecting the kind of plain-speaking Yorkshire sense that the real Nasa could probably do with in its periodic crises, Sean Bean. …

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