Starring: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Sebastian Stan, Kate Mara, Michael Pena, Kristin Wiig, Sean Bean, Donald Glover, Mackenzie Davis, Benedict Wong, Aksel Hennie
Directed By: Ridley Scott
Just a few days ago, I declared Room the best film of the year. I hadn’t seen The Martian. Wow. Just. Wow. I feel blessed to have seen two great films in the past week, either one I’d be happy seeing win the Best Picture Oscar. The Martian is an absolutely excellent film, a rarity in studio films. It champions the human spirit, hard work, intelligence, and all the things we should be proud of. Mark Watney doesn’t survive because he’s the strongest or the fastest, or because he has superhuman abilities. He survives because he’s really fucking smart. Also, kudos to getting away with a PG-13 rating with two audible “fucks” and several suggested “fucks”. I’m impressed that the MPAA has evolved enough to allow that.
The Martian seemed like a film that would just feature a lot of Matt Damon, but it does an excellent job balancing its ensemble. And what an ensemble. Jessica Chastain is a standout, doing more great work here. She’s not the only one though. Ejiofor, Daniels, Glover, and the rest of the gang all do some of their best work with limited screentime. It has a great script that balances everyone and keeps the story moving forward. Running for over 2 hours, I never felt bored. That’s a tough task, but Ridley Scott really pulled out all the stops for what is definitely his best work. Yes, I think this film is better than Gladiator.
The Martian has that feel when you exit the theatre that you just watched something truly special, which is why it has done so well. It never plays dumb for its audience, believing that the audience will follow along even if they don’t understand the science. No shortcuts. The hard work is on screen. It’s one of the smartest films of the year for that very reason.
A lot of the films success has to do with Damon, who does an excellent job controlling the direction of the film through his performance. It’s one of his best performances, and he’s been getting a lot of due praise for it. The film wouldn’t be as successful without him, and I hope he gets a nomination for it.
If you’re still one of the few who haven’t seen The Martian yet, you’re missing out. It looks great on the big screen, and deserves to be watched there. See it now, before you’re stuck watching it at home.
FINAL GRADE: A