You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem and you solve the next one and then the next. And if you solve enough problems, you get to come home.
Finally caught up with this one. I’ve had troubled relationships with this new spate of space films: I loathed Gravity, but quite enjoyed Interstellar. And then there’s Prometheus, by Scott himself, of which the less said the better. But anyway, I really loved this film. It takes a simple set-up. An astronaut finds himself stranded on Mars. How will he survive? How will he contact earth? How will he be saved? Three simple questions on which hangs a movie that is both incredibly smart and incredibly entertaining. It has a great ensemble; practically every part is played by an actor I know and love, so that’s fun. It’s Damon’s film, of course, and he holds the camera with the easy charm of the true star that he is. Jeff Daniels deserves special note; he’s pitch perfect in a role that allows him to be completely unlikable. Ejiofor is fantastic, of course, and Chastain always deserves special notice. The script is smart, packed with a lot of unexpected humor while also refusing to skimp on the science. It’s a movie that doesn’t talk down to the audience, even as it does make itself comprehensible to even science novices. I like the emotional clarity of the movie; this isn’t a movie about raging emotions and big dramatic scenes – it’s a movie about solving problems and I like that. Some have dinged the movie for the repetitive element: a problem arises; there’sa struggle; problem is solved; rinse; lather; repeat. But it’s so rare to see a big blockbuster about smart people thinking that I was really engaged by it. The movie isn’t even so much a hymn to endurance as it is a hymn to intelligence and in a multiplex that usually caters to the lowest common denominator, it’s heartening that this film not only exists, but is a huge hit. And a word for Scott’s direction, which keeps us focused on the small details of the story, but also sketches the broad world of Mars with stunning landscape shots. This movie runs almost two-and-a-half hours and it’s a movie about people talking about science and using science to solve problems and it isn’t boring for a single split second. On the contrary, it’s incredibly entertaining. Smart, entertaining, savvy sci-fi seems to be making a comeback at the multiplex. If they’re all like this one, bring it on. 4 stars.
tl;dr – film about astronaut stranded on Mars is a hymn to science and intelligence and also wildly entertaining; great cast, smart script – now this blockbuster earns it. 4 stars.