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MATT DAMON IN THE MARTIAN

Year: 2015 Cast: Matt Damon, Jeff Daniels, Jessica Chastain Director: Ridley Scott
This CASTAWAY meets SILENT RUNNING with more than a touch of GRAVITY is set far, far away with Matt Damon as an astronaut stranded on Mars. His character, Mark Watney, is the team's botanist and must survive after being left for dead following a raging storm, until he's possibly... hopefully... but not very likely... rescued. Well that's the plot in a nutshell, and this tale of desperation and survival seemed the right fit for Damon, whose likable personality alone could have made the interstellar Robinson Crusoe completely entertaining: Too bad so much time is spent on Earth where NASA bigwig Jeff Daniels and company are forced to politically decide whether to send the returning ship back to Mars; but only after telling them their missing man is still breathing.

Matt Damon
Right when the stranded-alone element gets intense and suspenseful, we cut back and forth to characters with reputations, not their lives, on the line, where scenes on Earth merely fill time with scientific exposition while the rescue ship's crew (including Jessica Chastain and Michael Peña) act too breezy and loose, making Damon's potentially enthralling solo plight a lazy afterthought. In fact at one point he actually points out (aloud to himself) how amazing it is to have survived that long on Mars, and it's true. Yet we never quite experience his genuine struggle and suffering from all the distractions. So basically, in the case of THE MARTIAN, Houston is the problem.

RATING: **
REFERENCES & TRIVIA: The movie CASTAWAY starred Tom Hanks as a man stranded on an island, and was not science-fiction unlike GRAVITY, which we all know about, and the claustrophobic 1970's cult flick SILENT RUNNING where hippie botanist Bruce Dern survives alone in outer space. And as for the literary Crusoe mention, there is an old movie called ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS, which has nothing to do with this motion picture nor the reference therein.
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