It’s a curious fact that Ridley Scott’s most engaging and commercially successful film in years doesn’t feel at all like a Scot Free product. Along with his brother, the late Tony Scott, Ridley Scott honed his filmmaking skills working on commercials and the result is a visual style that critics often deride as a parody of the over-designed advertising aesthetic. In many ways, this is true. His films have a lush, artificiality that occasionally rely too much on smoke and mirrors – sometimes almost literally.
All of this makes Scott’s latest film, The Martian, even more remarkable. Scott still has his sure eye and love of detail but, in recent years, he has dialled back some of his trademark gimmicks. The result is The Martian; a sci-fi that is lovely to look at while feeling both real and very human.
If you’ve read the book, then you’ll know that Andy Weir’s The Martian is an old school, hard-science read which, while engaging, has little of that ‘humanity’. Weir’s stranded astronaut, Mark Watney, is a barely sketched out character. But Scott and Matt Damon (who plays Watney) deliver a very different interpretation. Despite the staggering odds of Watney surviving to be rescued The Martian is relentlessly upbeat, buoyed along by a disco-themed soundtrack that you’ll either love or hate.
An ensemble cast includes Jessica Chastain – powerful and compelling as the Ares III Mission Commander who initially made the call to leave Watney behind believing he was dead, and now desperate to make things right. Donald Glover is superb as JPL wunderkind Rich Purnell; managing to inject charm and humour into every onscreen moment. Chiwetel Ejiofor is surprisingly whimsical as Vincent Kapoor, NASA’s Mars Mission Director. While Sean Bean, playing Mitch Henderson, surprises everyone by not dying.
The dramatic moments manage to be heart-thumpingly tense, even on a second viewing, without ever resorting to overlong, pointless action sequences. The emotions are a pitch perfect too; engaging but never mawkish. The Martian is that increasingly rare thing: a film with a cracking script (from Cabin In The Woods writer Drew Goddard), and memorably engaging characters that leaves you smiling. Simply Ridley Scott’s best film in years.
The Martian is released on Digital HD 25th January 2016 and on 3D Blu-ray™, Blu-ray™ & DVD 8th February 2016