Have you read Andy Weir's terrific best-seller yet? The back story of his success is almost as good as his first full-length novel. Look it up! A few memorable situations had to be eliminated, or this 2-hour, 20-minute survival story would run for over six hours! I did object to the last exciting action sequence: They needlessly changed the players simply because of star billing. Grrr....
NASA astronaut/flight surgeon Michael Reed Barrett happily introduced this exciting Sci-Fi adventure to our screening audience (it's his favorite movie). Director Ridley Scott ("Prometheus"), with a screenplay by Drew Goddard ("The Cabin in the Woods"), follows Weir's involving and humorous book into space. We open with a NASA exploration team on the red planet, where a freak storm violently interrupts their mission and our story begins.
- * Matt Damon ("Beyond the Candelabra") Mark Watney is left for dead as the crew wisely scrambles to evacuate while their ship can still fly. Faced with starvation, this resourceful survivor becomes "the greatest botanist on this planet!" (See the trailer.)
- * Jessica Chastain ("Zero Dark Thirty") Melissa Lewis is captain of the crew that unwittingly abandons our hero; her responsibility is to get her team safely back to Earth.
- * Mackenzie Davis ("That Awkward Moment") Mindy Park's job is surveillance. She is the solitary observer who monitors the mission from a quiet NASA desk. She spots some unexplained activity. Once it is ascertained that Watney is alive, time and distance are the biggest challenges for NASA. How do we get back there to rescue him before he dies? And how do we tell him we're coming?
- * Jeff Daniels ("The Newsroom") Sanders is the head of NASA; short of a mutiny, anything else that happens is on his watch.
- * Kristen Wiig ("The Skeleton Twins") Annie Montrose's job is Public Relations. How do you tell the world that an astronaut has been left behind on Mars to starve?
- * Chewitel Ejiofor ("12 Years a Slave") Venkat Kapoor is the vital link between the face of NASA and the media world. Through him, we witness the bureaucratic shuffle that takes place behind the scenes.
- * Donald Glover ("Magic Mike XXL") Rich Purnell seems to have Asperger's, which makes this high-functioning fellow the perfect person to offer an outside-the-box solution for this white-knuckle dilemma.
- * Michael Peña ("Ant-Man") Likable mission pilot Rick Martinez is Watney's best buddy. It's just plain fun to hear their chatter.
This is PG-13, so expect a smattering of profanity, a bit of nudity, and an entire crew of Macgyvers (one astronaut has to build a bomb from the food supply). You never look at duct tape in the same way again.
The most outstanding element of this film (AND the book!) is the humor: Watney has a wry sense of himself and his situation that we come to share. He also has a resilience and a persistence that any would-be adventurer would be wise to note; he even comes to appreciate disco music (some tapes had been abandoned by the crew).
You can skip the 3D, the story is the thing! I heartily recommend this one (and the book).