Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is part of six manned mission to Mars that is hit by a sudden and intense storm, during this storm Mark is hit by flying debris and presumed dead. However, he is very much alive and finds himself truly alone as the only living thing on an entire planet. He must survive and to do that he must grow food on a planet where nothing grows, but as fate has it he is the best botanist on the planet, he is also the worst botanist on the planet, Mark is in fact the only botanist on the planet.
Mark tries to signal to NASA that he is still alive, led by Jeff Daniels' Teddy Sanders NASA quickly discover this astonishing fact and begin a plan of rescue, which of course will take a long time and there's a big chance Mark will die before they even get to the Red Planet. NASA begin their rescue plan with the eyes of world watching with baited breath.
Over the past three years there has been quite a few adult Science Fiction thrillers/dramas that became one of the most talked about films of that year, perhaps this is because of the increased activity and interest in space exploration (concrete evidence of water has been found on Mars just last week). Anyway in 2013 we had Gravity, a stunning technical accomplishment that would allow Alfonso Cuarón to win the Best Director Oscar, the year after that we had Christopher Nolan's ambitious Interstellar and this year we have Ridley Scott's The Martian which will likely garner an Oscar nod or two come awards season.
Recently, Ridley Scott's films have been disappointing, Prometheus' script was the weakest part of the entire film, The Counsellor got torn apart and Exodus: Gods and Kings was also poorly reviewed (I myself actually quite liked it). With a superb script, and from what I gather superb source material, Ridley Scott helms an incredible film that engages the audience from the horrifying sandstorm at the start of the film to the film's conclusion with plenty of scenes where a lone Mark Watney finds himself standard on Mars in extreme solitude in between. Through all the flicking between different locations, planets and sets of characters it's remarkable that the film never becomes episodic or struggles to maintain an even pace as Scott does a perfect job at managing the film's pace.
There are many scenes where a sole Matt Damon must work the screen and drive the story on his own, it is because of Matt Damon's powerful central performance that these scenes are as gripping as they are. Damon brilliantly portrays a man with an intense desire to survive but still very much aware of the dire predicament he finds himself in (one scene where the howling wind clearly affects his concentration whilst counting potatoes is a brilliant example of Damon's great performance in the lead role). The script is excellent and Scott's direction helps make an epic film but Damon's performance gives the film a human touch. Without Damon's humane and likeable performance the film would be missing a crucial ingredient. In addition of Damon's great performance his co-stars are also faultless in their performances, particularly Jessica Chastain and Jeff Daniels who both deliver good performances.
Scott is a great visual director (the visuals of the Red Planet are spectacular) and with a great script behind him he can make some truly great films such as Blade Runner, Alien, Thelma and Louise and Gladiator. The Martian probably deserves to be mentioned among such films because it's a film with a story that is tense, exciting, funny (I love the name Project Elrond) and emotionally engaging.