The Martian Is Enthralling, Empathetic and The Year's Best Blockbuster.

The Martian.
Director: Ridley Scott.
Writer: Drew Goddard.
Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena.
Playing At: Wide.

So the best blockbuster of the year arrived later than anticipated.

But at least The Martian was worth the wait. Enthralling, entertaining and empathetic, it’s got everything you’re looking for in a movie, all the while reminding us why outer space — and Mars in particular — holds our collective imagination so captive.

The Martian wastes no time in stranding its lead, astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon in one of his best performances), on the red planet. A storm separates him from his space exploration science crew, which then takes off and heads back to Earth, assuming the worst. Improbably, though, Watney survived — and, well, he just goes right on surviving thanks to unmatched ingenuity and, more importantly, relentless positivity.

Unlike Cast Away or Gravity, which also stranded great actors from the rest of the world, The Martian's protagonist is defiantly upbeat for a character with limited food, air and water. Remarkably, this never comes off as phony. What makes The Martian so great is that every setback is presented as a math problem, something that can be figured out eventually through blood, sweat and tears.

Matt Damon isn't the only great actor in the cast, either. No, The Martian is filled with them. Back on Earth, Jeff Daniels is the pragmatic head of NASA. After discovering that Watney has survived, he’s skeptical of sending a rescue mission. In trailers, this is presented as villainous; in the film, he's merely a realist who knows that one dead astronaut is preferably to an entirely dead crew.

That crew is led by Jessica Chastain, who I'll just go ahead and declare as the best actress working today and who shows off that effortless determination well here. Michael Pena joins her and continues to steal every scene he's in. Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan and Aksel Hennie are also great in smaller roles. Also back on Earth? Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mackenzie Davis and Kristen Wiig. Even Donald Glover has a great cameo as a sarcastic astrophysicist.

It’s hard not to compare The Martian to last year's Interstellar, which (spoiler alert?) also featured Matt Damon awaiting rescue on an inhospitable planet. Both movies get the science, however theoretical, right enough. But where Interstellar's descent into gooey metaphysics (love, man) kept it from greatness, The Martiancomes by its emotions honestly. Watney is completely engaged, even when he's talking to himself. And you can see why: The Martian actually captures why we're so fascinated by space exploration, and why it remains so important.

Grade: A.

7820_2

7820_3

7820_4

7820_5

7820_6

7820_7

7820_8

7820_9

7820_10

7820_11

7820_12

7820_13

7820_14

7820_15

7820_16

7820_17

7820_18

7820_19

7820_20

7820_21

7820_22

7820_23

7820_24

7820_25

7820_26

7820_27

7820_28

7820_29

7820_30

7820_31

7820_32

7820_33

7820_34

7820_35

7820_36

7820_37

7820_38

7820_39

7820_40

7820_41

7820_42

7820_43

7820_44

7820_45

7820_46

7820_47

7820_48

7820_49

7820_50

No more articles
X