Matt Damon has become an acting heavyweight without anyone noticing. Where you can watch a film starring Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, knowing that it will probably be of decent quality because of their status in the acting-world, that wasn’t necessarily something you’d say about Matt Damon. After seeing his performance in The Martian and looking back at his last few acting choices, you can’t help but become impressed with what he is producing.
The Martian really tests Damon as well. For majority of the movie, Damon is alone. He is forced to talk “to himself” (although in reality to conveniently placed, static Go-Pro cameras). If Damon didn’t have the ability to charm, sell his peril, successes and generally get the audience on his side, then this film would fail instantly. Luckily, Damon is as funny, honest and cocky as needs to be and manages to keep you rooting for him through the harsh times and slightly less harsh times.
This movie throws a lot at the character too but luckily not too much. Damon’s character, Mark Watney, is in the worse of situations anyway, living on an inhabitable planet, struggling to do the basics like grow food. It would be very easy to continually throw peril at Watney, having his situation become a series of slowly increasing, awful and implausible events but the smart movie is to play it slow and build his successes, as small as they may be, before tearing them away from him. This means that when issues do arise, they mean so much more and luckily Damon is capable enough to sell the impact.
Not this film is just about Mark Watney stuck on the planet. In an unusual move, the film also follows the attempts to get him back. A lot of acting heavyweight is enlisted to help Watney, from NASA director Jeff Daniels to the astronaut who left him behind, played by Jessica Chastain. It forms an interesting sub-plot from Damon’s attempts to survive as the crew on the returning ship and those at NASA struggle to find the solid solution to the now globally public problem.
This could have been the other area that the movie faltered on. Too much science and the film becomes complex and alienating, not enough and it is unbelievable. Luckily, The Martian strikes the balance very well and the audience is never left behind or watching very intelligent people do things we don’t fully understand.
The rest of cast are only really filler though: this is Damon’s movie and as his predicament begins to reach a conclusion and is situation gets worse, his skills as an actor are really put to the test. Damon plays funny, helpless, desperate and angry perfectly and you will find yourself on the edge of your seat for the exciting conclusion. It feels slightly too science-fiction compared to the seriousness of what has gone before but is up there with Gravity for “hold your breath” anticipation.
Overall, The Martian is a fitting showcase for the underrated talents of Matt Damon. He carries this film practically solo and does a fantastic job. He manages to sell his situation without resorting to melodrama while an all star-cast of impressive talents try to save him. A good mix of drama and action keep the movie interesting and the finale is will have you on the edge of your seat.
Rating – 5!
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)