Movie Review: Damon gives award-worthy performance in The Martian

Based on the 2011 novel by Andy Weir, The Martian spans two and a half hours, but nearly every second is filled with plot twists, conflicts, scientifically-intricate scenes, spoofs and moments that leave your palms sweaty.

If that’s not enough to reel you in, take a look at the cast list: Kristen Wiig, Michael Peña, Jessica Chastain, Sebastian Stan and Jeff Daniels all appear in the movie. Matt Damon—who is known for his versatility—plays stuck-on-Mars protagonist, astronaut and botanist Mark Watney—dubbed “The Martian.”

The introduction to the film resembles that of The Day After Tomorrow, sharing the same introductory sci-fi action with various long-term consequences to follow thereafter.

The Martian begins with a crew of astronauts exploring Mars in a mission titled “Ares III.” A severe storm hits shortly afterwards, displacing Watney after being directly struck by a satellite. Played by Chastain, mission commander Melissa Lewis desperately searches for Watney while the rest of the crew urges Lewis to return to the spacecraft, as the storm is reaching its peak. She is forced to retreat and Watney is presumed dead.

As the storm ebbs, Watney wakes up. Though injured, he is alive. He’s left alone on the planet, however, and is unable to contact the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Realizing the next Mars mission “Ares IV” won’t happen for another four years, Watney realizes he must grow his own food in order to survive, so he creates an artificial habitat to harvest potatoes.

Back at the NASA headquarters, engineers soon discover that Watney is alive through satellite images from Mars. Played by Daniels, NASA administrator Teddy Sanders is notified and immediately begins to formulate a plan to retrieve Watney as soon as possible.

What makes The Martian so successful is that it’s scientifically accurate while affectively portraying human vulnerability. After all, it’s not an everyday occurrence that someone is stranded on Mars.

The plot of the film—while convoluted and hesitant at times—is engaging and informative. It doesn’t overuse sci-fi action, nor does it utilize cheap gimmicks for thrills. Viewers should know that NASA collaborated with filmmakers in order to implement as much credibility and accuracy into the film as possible.

In addition to the refreshing plot of the film, the acting and portrayal of the characters couldn’t be any more believable. The Martian terrifically demonstrates Damon’s acting capabilities; it is one of his best on-screen performances in years. Damon switches back and forth from desperate to hopeful successfully, unabashedly acting out every emotional moment.

Wiig and Chastain’s performances are also noteworthy. Chastain specifically shined near the end of the film when she exited the ship to personally reach Damon by simply being attached to a harness in the middle of outer space. Chastain captures Commander Lewis’ strong-headed and caring nature well, which includes not holding anything back and defying her crewmates in order to do what she thinks will protect them.

Even though the making of The Martian required a herculean effort in many aspects—it required a budget of over $100 million—its results were triumphant.

I highly recommend seeing this film—I promise you’ll come out not only enthralled, but also a little bit smarter.