Surfacing from the murky waters of blockbuster season, the Oscar contenders that run from September to December feel like a breath of clean and fresh air, and The Martian is no exception. Standing out from the handful of cinematic gems so far, this film provides you with the perfect balance between originality and complexity, and redeems Ridley Scott from the troublesome period following Black Hawk Down.
Let’s start with the basics and talk about story. The premise of Matt Damon stranded on Mars was faintly stained with predictability, and I could not help but draw comparisons to Interstellar and Cast Away. However, these comparisons faded like dwindling rays, because the dialogue, message and overall tonality of the film were quite impressive. What I particularly loved was Scott’s ability to borrow from the heart pounding nature of space films like Apollo 13 and Gravity, and spice the film up with a sense of fun and intimacy, and best of all, making STEM sound cool.
In regards to execution, the visuals of the film were outstandingly gorgeous. This is not only due to the convincing location of Wadi Rum, Jordan, but to the virtuosic mixture of drone shots, intimate camera angles and respect for the audience as participants within this movie. In particular, I was really enamoured with the symbolic technique of showing the harsh orange exterior shots of Mars and the variety of colours hidden inside the base and vehicles, which represented the fertile relationship Mark Watney unveils with the planet.
The film also boasts an impressive cast, featuring the likes of Kate Mara, Kristen Wiig and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Although I was disappointed with the characters played by Jeff Daniels and Jessica Chastain, Damon’s metamorphic and empowering performance of Watney more than compensated for that. I’m calling it now - Matt Damon should be nominated for an Oscar for his work on this film.
As the film started to close, it became clear to me how the message of The Martian is neither preachy nor pretentious. Rather, it is relevant and intelligent, and vindicates the importance of problem-solving and hope, and playfully reminds me how I should have paid more attention in science and math classes. As I reflect on the film, it’s clear that the sophisticated story, message and cinematic techniques is what makes The Martian one of my favourite movies of the whole year, and reminds me how there are few limits to what filmmakers can do when they want to achieve their vision.
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ¼