The Martian

★★★★

Based on the novel by Andy Weir, and directed by Ridley Scott, this movie is going to be a huge hit. Sometime in the realistic near future, a manned NASA mission to Mars goes awry when an unexpected sandstorm leads the commanding officer (the always excellent Jessica Chastain) to scrub the mission. As the six astronaut team rushes to their rocket through the storm, Mark Watney (Matt Damon) gets slammed by a flying communications antenna and is swept away in the storm. Presuming he was killed, the team continues on and makes it off the planet on a course to return home.

Miraculously, Watney survives and in the first half of the movie he goes into survival mode, working out how long he’ll be able to survive at what’s left of the team base. Meanwhile at home, the director of NASA (Jeff Daniels) and his advisors tell the public of his death, only to have egg on their face when Watney MacGuyver’s a new comm system and reestablishes contact.

The second half of the movie kicks into high gear as a rescue mission is plotted with setbacks, mutinous rebellion by the returning crew, and ultimately, international cooperation saving the day.

It goes without saying that Matt Damon makes the movie with a relentlessly charming performance as the witty, persevering hero. Yet the diverse cast, which also includes Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kate Mara, Michael Peña, Mackenzie Davis, Donald Glover, and Kristen Wiig is uniformly excellent.

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