STORY: While the Ares 3 crew led by Commander Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain) is out collecting samples from the Martian surface, a sudden windstorm wreaks havoc, sweeping astronaut/ botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) away. This causes his mates to leave him behind on the desolate planet and begin their journey back to Earth, assuming he must have been killed by falling debris. Turns out, Watney is injured and stranded alone on the red planet, struggling to survive with limited resources at his disposal. He strangely hopes that he may live till NASA initiates their next mission to Mars, years later.

MOVIE REVIEW: Back on earth, NASA too reports about Watney’s death and declares that the mission was aborted. Shocked to know later that he’s alive, they contemplate a rescue plan but as Watney puts it, ‘Space does not cooperate’. Does he make it?

The Martian is an extraordinary tale of Watney’s extreme optimism, courage, determination and most importantly, ingenuity. Of course there are creative liberties but based on Andy Weir’s novel, the film is a fictional tale that’s fascinating and plausible. From Watney trying to grow potatoes and make water on Martian soil to fixing his blown up HAB (Habitation Module) by a plastic tarp and duct tape, or wandering around the Martian surface and establishing contact with folks back home — a brilliantly witty Matt Damon drags you along with him, to his hostile world of loneliness and uncertainty. His one-liners and crackling self talk saves the film from turning sluggish and generic in portions.

The cinematography, 3D and special effects are equally commendable. Mars’ mountainous terrain in various hues of orange looks absolutely stunning.

While The Martian is not an edge-of-the-seat thriller like Gravity, it is gripping nonetheless and strikes an enjoyable balance between entertainment and science. Scott’s understated drama inspires you to solve your problems instead of mulling over them.

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In Watney’s iconic style, it’s about ‘scienceing the sh** out of” your nightmares. His unflinching determination and persistence to survive is a story you don’t want to miss. Go for it.

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American Scientist Peter Wolynes elected to Indian National Science Academy

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