It was absolutely amazing!!
Frankly, I should’ve known. A man who can direct anything as epically amazing as the Alien series is certainly someone you should trust with making a film about being marooned on a planet. Of course we are speaking of the great Ridley Scott, who, after this film, is elevated in my mind to the status of not just great, but legendary. Also, Matt Damon. Let me repeat that. Also, Matt Damon.
The story begins with the team on Mars – led by Jessica Chastain as Commander Lewis – meeting with a hellish storm, which leads to them being forced to abort the mission. On the way to their ship, Mark Watney (Damon) gets hit by loose debris and flies through the wind and dirt, out of sight and unconscious. The team is forced to reluctantly leave him behind. Of course, Watney is not dead. (This is not a spoiler. Obviously. It’s the premise of the ENTIRE SHOW). He then faces the seemingly insurmountable task of mere survival. Being the team’s botanist comes in helpful when he has to find a way to extend his food supply, and, crucially, to make contact with NASA and earth. Whether he eventually returns home or not: you watch to find out. 😀
This show got so many things right. Firstly, Matt Damon is perfectly cast as Watney. Damon carries his character through his initial despair, then enthusiasm, and, as the days draw on and attempt after attempt to help him falls through, his resignation and weariness. He is comic and sincere and powerful, portraying with accuracy the strength and tenacity of the human spirit in the face of extreme odds. When he cringes, you cringe with him, and when he takes a leap (literally tho … literally a leap… ) of faith, I was grabbing the armrest so hard I thought it might snap. He is so natural in his role, it’s like he was born for it. A real joy to watch.
Secondly, everyone else in the show is also brilliant. It’s chocked full with good actors, a couple of which were familiar faces I didn’t know the names too. They turned out to be Kate Mara (fellow astronaut Johanssen) and Mackenzie Davis (NASA ground staff). Damon was the lead by just an inch; the supporting roles were played so well, and got so much screen time, that the lead role could well be said to have been shared between many, and to excellent effect.
The show’s also great because it cuts to the chase. No wishy washy dawdling, no romance on the side (how refreshing!), no boring conversations. The show picked off swiftly and the action kept rolling right till the end. The no-romance thing was seriously a breath of fresh air.
On top of all that, it was exciting and wonderful to see a woman in a strong, essential, leadership role in a Hollywood film. It’s probably no coincidence that one of the best heroines of all time was also a star in another of Ridley Scott’s films: Sigourney Weaver in Alien. Here, Jessica Chastain as the commander of an expedition to Mars is inspiring to watch, as she makes one tough decision after the other to bring their lost teammate back.
Most of all, the show left me touched to think that, in the face of a situation like this, the whole world wouldn’t think twice about rallying together to save even just one man. Countries put aside their tensions, everyone from the young to the old pour their sentiments, and anyone who is in a position to help willingly gives it all they’ve got. At no point in the movie did I think this outpouring of compassion was a mere product of idealistic fiction; I am fully confident that if an astronaut did get stranded in outer space, the world would react no differently. When the one gets singled out form the billions, the value of a human life is brought to the fore, and it’s heartwarming and reassuring. Even though we brush past each other on the street without as much as a second glance, deep down we are all wired to understand and acknowledge that each person is special and of immense worth.
Me thinks: A definite must-watch. In terms of space flicks, it frankly blows Interstellar out of the park. I would happily pay to watch it again in cinemas.
Cheers (to empty planets and full hearts!) x