When you look at Ridley Scott's three films in the sci-fi film canon of the past 40 years, "Alien", "Blade Runner" and "Prometheus" stand out as modern film classics. Let's add another one to that group with 2015's THE MARTIAN.
Based on first time novelist Andy Weir's best seller, the film version starts fast and never lets up.
As the film opens, botanist Mark Watney is among an international team on the surface of Mars, halfway through their mission on the surface.
When a massive storm hits their camp and Watney appears to be killed, the rest of the crew quickly boards their craft for an emergency escape and the start of the very long journey home.
As NASA soon discovers, Watney is very much alive. With only about a year's food supply and nearly three years before a rescue mission can save him, Watney must get very creative, very fast or succumb to a lonely, slow death on Mars.
Matt Damon plays Watney with plenty of humor and intelligence, talking to the daily video log (and the audience) to share his feelings, his plan and his day-to-day existence.
The film switches back and forth from Watney's solitary adventure on the red planet to the inner workings of NASA and JPL as they scramble to mount a supply mission and a rescue against all odds.
Jeff Daniels is Teddy Sanders, the head of NASA, wrestling with the best way to present the truth and the needs of the many versus the needs of the one (you're welcome Star Trek fans).
Chewetel Ejiofor is terrific as the head of the Mars mission, alongside Sean Bean as Henderson, the astronaut trainer for the crew.
Among the crew that has unwittingly abandoned Watney is Jessica Chastain as Lewis, the mission commander, a terrific Michael Pena as Rick Martinez, Watney's closest friend on the team and Kate Mara, recovering nicely from the horrible "Fantastic Four" earlier this year.
The less you know of the plot the better, as Director Scott builds nice suspense throughout on how Watney will possibly survive, communicate and plan for the years ahead.
The production values are beautiful and incredibly real. If this isn't what Mars looks like, it's what it OUGHT to look like. They have nailed the brutal yet stunning terrain and the workmanlike simplicity/scientific complexity of the Mars camp itself down to the finest detail.
Like Tom Hanks in "Castaway", Damon carries more than half the film on his own. Alone on screen, he drives plenty of laughs and emotion as Watney.
The final 30 minutes of the film are exciting and tense, definitely on-the-edge-of-your-seat time.
Ridley Scott continues to make great film after great film, especially in the science fiction genre.
He and his production team create an incredible world here that seems all too real, as do the characters that populate it.
Schedule a voyage with THE MARTIAN, its a great trip that earns an A.