The Martian, based on the novel by Andy Weir, spins a tale of how an astronaut is left for dead on the hostile red planet we know as Mars. Mark Watney (Matt Damon) must find a way to survive for months with a little less than nothing after his crewmates leave him on the planet’s surface in the midst of a horrific storm.
While doing their routine of experiments, the crew of the Hermes is told to leave quickly from the planet surface. A huge storm bears down on them. While preparing to leave, Watney is struck by a part of the communications antenna. This renders his suit unable to function properly, which leads the crew to believe he died.
After the crew takes off from the planet, Mark awakens with a piece of the antenna stuck in his body, but very much alive. He makes it back to the Hab, the construct the crew lived in on the planet, and faces the truth that it will be at least four years before any rescue can happen.
Counting up his food stuffs, he discovers he does not have enough to make it that long. So he must make a decision: do something to survive or die.
Mark remembers that the crew had potatoes set aside for Thanksgiving. Being a botanist, he decides he is not going to die, but he is going to plant potatoes using soil from Mars.
What follows is a primer on how one survives being stranded with no food and only your knowledge of botany and science to guide your way forward.
There is another plot to the movie. This takes place at NASA. There, Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels) is the director of the agency and he announces that Mark died on Mars. But in time there is a discovery made that someone is moving things around on the surface. The conclusion is reached that Mark is alive. This sets in motion a plan to bring Mark home. Mitch Henderson (Sean Bean), the flight director, wants to tell the crew of the Hermes that Mark is alive, but he is rebuffed by Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who is just above Mitch in NASA. This creates tension within the agency.
As the movie progresses we get to see Mark working on the problems faced being on a planet with no immediate means of support. He must plant potatoes, create water to grow the potatoes, and find a way to communicate with NASA. All the while he uses his knowledge of science to work to his advantage.
NASA scrambles to find a way to send supplies to Mark. They cut corners and throw together the best plan possible. There is also the issue of how to get Mark home. Just getting him food is not going to be enough. They must get him back to Earth.
The Martian is directed by Ridley Scott. Scott is no stranger to space movies. He is the director of that classic from the 1970s, Alien. His ease with the subject matter is apparent and his use of multiple cameras to show all manner of points of view makes viewing the movie interesting to watch.
Damon does a masterful job as Matt Watney. One of the things that he injects into the picture is humor and lots of humanity. As he talks to the camera that records the record of his work on Mars, there is a boyishness and playfulness that informs how Watney is able to survive on the planet. This gives the movie a large dose of humanity.
Many are calling The Martian one of the best pictures of the year. I will join that refrain. It is a solid offering full of intelligence and humanity. The viewer is shown the power of the human spirit and how a person that puts his mind to task is able to analyze, adapt and overcome.
Rated PG-13 for some strong language, injury images, and brief nudity.
Directed by Ridley Scott
Written by Drew Goddard, based on the novel by Andy Weir
With: Matt Damon (Mark Watney), Jessica Chastain (Melissa Lewis), Jeff Daniels (Teddy Sanders), Sean Bean (Mitch Henderson), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Vincent Kapoor)