>>> The Martian

THE MARTIAN directed by Ridley Scott, written by Drew.

THE MARTIAN directed by Ridley Scott, written by Drew Goddard from the novel by Andy Weir, with Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Michael Peña, Sean Bean, Kate Mara and Chiwetel Ejiofor. A Fox release. 141 minutes. Opens Friday (October 2). See listings. Rating: NNNN

Where to watch: iTunes

Houston, we have a winner!

Ridley Scott bounces back from his underwhelming Alien prequel Prometheus with this thrilling adaptation of the Andy Weir novel about a NASA astronaut, Mark Watney (Matt Damon), who’s stranded on Mars and must find his way back to Earth. He hopes to do this through scientific know-how (he’s a botanist and engineer), as well as the combined efforts of the crew that left him behind and the brainpower down in Houston.

Basically, it’s Saving Private Ryan (which also starred Damon) all over again, with a better sense of humour and a bit of MacGyver ingenuity. Oh, and lots of 70s disco tunes.

Drew Goddard’s screenplay remains faithful to Weir’s novel while adding some context and emotional beats, with Damon capturing Mark’s cockiness but also adding some much-needed gravitas. Down on earth, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels and Sean Bean (who takes part in a hilarious LOTR-related joke) succeed in imparting lots of info, while up in space Jessica Chastain, Michael Peña, Kate Mara and others have less to do but look cool doing it.

The picture nearly runs out of fuel near the end, but the climax is expectantly exciting and visually stunning.

See our interview with actor Michael Peña here.

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