Director Ridley Scott goes back to space in this film version of the bestselling book, "The Martian". He is very much in his element directing with precision, a faithful recreation of the novel. The film is so realistic, it's like watching a documentary in real time. Even if you have read the book, you will still find yourself holding your breath multiple times during the film.
Mr. Scott brings the realism but star Matt Damon and the rest of the cast bring the entertainment value. Mr. Damon is Oscar caliber as Mark Watney, the astronaut left behind and thought dead during an aborted space mission to Mars. His fellow astronauts are played by Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, Kate Mara, Michael Pena and as the mission commander, Jessica Chastain. They spend a great deal of the film off screen returning to Earth, believing Watney is dead. They do, however, play a integral part in the second half.
Back on Earth, the head of NASA is played with much gravitas by Jeff Daniels and various other NASA staff are played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Bean, Mackenzie Davis and Kristen Wiig. It's a strong cast that plays every scene with convincing realism. The one exception is Ms. Wiig, who I realize is trying to widen her range as an actor, but seems out of place in the serious role of the NASA Media Director.
Of course the film really belongs to Mr. Damon who spends the majority of the film alone and many times dialog free. It is a testament to a great script and his terrific acting that we are fully engaged with his character. The script is infused with much unexpected humor and it's a welcome relief to laugh occasionally during this suspenseful story.
The film is being offered in both 2D and 3D versions. I wouldn't recommend paying the extra fee for the 3-D as it didn't seem to add much to the visuals except make the film seem darker than necessary. I would recommend though, seeing the film on a large screen to appreciate the vastness of space and the replicated Martian landscape.
"The Martian" is first rate entertainment and a great initial launch for the holiday movie season.