Of course THE MARTIAN is director Ridley Scott's latest film and sees him return to the genre he's probably best at (in my opinion). It's a survival story interlaced with the complimentary rescue story. Matt Damon plays an American astronaut who is presumed dead and left behind on the surface of Mars. With limited supplies and resources he puts his scientific brain to the test and sets out to cultivate food and modify equipment to keep himself alive for several years until NASA can rescue him.
Audiences have enjoyed a trend of quasi-realistic science fiction dramas over the past few years with GRAVITY and INTERSTELLAR leading the pack. THE MARTIAN is the latest offering and sits comfortably between those two. Where it lacks the technical originality and mastery of GRAVITY it offers a more straight forward and comprehensible adventure than INTERSELLAR. With Ridley Scott having a comfortable reign over the production the film hits the ground running. Within moments of the opening frame the story excels into overdrive. There's no pussyfooting and we're presented with a disaster and predicament that sets rapid pacing and rarely relents.
With an outstanding lead performance by Matt Damon and a fantastic production design, the lengthy 140 minute running time seems irrelevant. Despite being a story about isolation, the film is structured to avoid repetition and fallibility and with the focus switching between survival and rescue there is never a dull moment. The support of ensemble players is strong with the likes of Chiewetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Jessica Chastain and Sean Bean delivering credible and engaging performances.
Ridley Scott has a knack for sci-fi and his entries into the genre are easily identifiable. He presents his futuristic worlds in a unique way that places as much emphasis on the environment as it does the humanity. They're always highly stylised but also cemented with strong characters. These days I find him to be a, somewhat, inconsistent filmmaker but he demonstrates his proficiency with THE MARTIAN, and with PROMETHEUS also helping to sharpen his sci-fi precision, all signs leading to ALIEN: PARADISE LOST look very good indeed.