The crew of ARES 3 are forced to make a sudden emergency evacuation from Mars when a storm of intense magnitude makes a direct hit on their research station. In a blind panic, trying to escape, Watney becomes separated from the rest of the crew on the way to the escape module. With no time to wait, and fearing his demise, the five remaining astronauts leave for the long journey home not knowing Watney survived the storm and he is now fending for himself alone on a planet many thousands of miles from home and many months away from any chance of being rescued.
On Earth, the news of the botanist's death is met with shock. This shock is retracted after they realize that he is still alive, and plans for are rescue are started, even if the head of NASA, Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels), thinks the attempt is futile. Not knowing what is trying to be done, Watney is a determined individual; while realizing the chance of seeing home again is remote, he sets out to give himself a better hope of surviving by undertaking a series of challenges that need to be overcome if survival is to become a reality.
Matt Damon is superb in playing Mark Watney. We see him go through near every emotion one could possibly imagine; laughing in the face of defeat and always looking for a positive outcome and always showing the best of human ingenuity. The Martian is all about Damon, but, in truth, there are some other decent characters in the film. Jeff Daniels is the villain of the piece, playing Teddy Sanders, a typical bureaucrat. The company comes before the plight of a single individual in his eyes. On the other end of the spectrum are Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Mitch Henderson (Sean Bean) who will bend over backwards to get their boy home. Unlike Ridley Scott's 2012 sci-fi hit Prometheus, where the various crew members had very little camaraderie towards each other, the crew of the ARES 3 have bond, especially Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain) and Rick Martinez (Michael Pena), who has some very witty one-liners in there. A special mention for Donald Glover playing astrophysicist Rich Pernell. He had me in stitches, despite having very little screen time.
Director Ridley Scott really captures the loneliness of being the only human being on an alien planet devoid of any other life. The depth of field in the Martian landscape only adds to this loneliness. For me, his other forays in to sci-fi seem to have always been centered around the non-human life form, whether it's the alien in Alien, the robot in Blade Runner or the Engineers in Prometheus. However, this time round, his attention is centered on the human. It's refreshing and well done and sends out the message that we can achieve remarkable things if only we put our mind to it, and to never give up.
The bottom line is The Martian is a hugely entertaining movie and although it has a running time of 141 minutes it really does not seem that long when you are immersed in it. If I had a choice, I think I would see it in 2D rather than the 3D that was shown at the screening. The 3D never really came through, but maybe that's just a personal preference.