Toronto Film Review: ‘The Martian’

13 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Don’t call The Martian star Donald Glover if you get lost in space.

Donald Glover had to learn a lot of science for his role in Ridley Scott’s space epic The Martian, but you might not want to rely on him should you actually find yourself stranded out in the universe. “I know a little bit about orbit, but not enough to sustain — or save — anyone,” the actor told JD Heyman at PEOPLE, InStyle and Entertainment Weekly’s photo studio at the Toronto Film Festival. First, I am generally contemptuous (or at least wary) of celebrity and everything it connotes, and really don’t care if I am, technically, standing in the same room as George Clooney or Susan Sarandon or Pete Postlethwaite or whoever.

Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain have starred in two of the biggest science-fiction films of the last year, Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar and Ridley Scott’s forthcoming The Martian. “Each time I get to do a few more scenes with Jessica.A spellbinding and moving interplanetary adventure that wonderfully veers between thrills, drama, humour and genuine moments of touching emotion, Ridley Scott’s epic new film The Martian has pretty much got it all.

Glover stars in The Martian as part of an all-star cast that includes Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, and Sean Bean. Second, as a working journalist, parties have previously served a purely utilitarian function, providing free food and booze that I can suck back, hunched over a tiny cocktail napkin, wearing a knapsack like a cartoon turtle. Watch the video above for more on Glover’s role as the “science geek” of the film and why you shouldn’t call him for help if you’re lost in space. The on-camera people are dolled up to the nines, while the folks who write for print and online media tend to be dressed like they just rolled out of the nearest pub.

As Whatney uses his smarts to survive, his crew and the earthbound NASA scientists devise ways to bring him home. “When I met the screenwriter, Drew Goddard, he said he wanted the movie to be a love-letter to science,” Damon said. “I think that it is. Woody Allen – with varying degrees of pomp, but an output that can not be denied – is 79, and has been been at it, like clockwork, with a movie every year for 40 years. It is an absorbing science-fiction tale that bristles with technology and science and yet which is also grounded by compassion and a warm sense of humanity.

But in the spirit of experiencing new things, pushing myself outside my comfort zone, wearing pants that aren’t stained with mustard, etc., I accepted an invitation to the cocktail party celebrating the premiere of Ridley Scott’s The Martian, starring Matt Damon as a NASA botanist accidentally left behind on the Red Planet. Its characters may well be surrounded by space stations, rocket packs and computer banks, but at its core it is the simple story of trying to save a stranded man. The movie itself is a fairly hollow crowd-pleaser, workshopped to feel massively appealing — funny enough, tense enough, propelled by Drew Goddard’s glib, Sorkin-lite dialogue.

The 77-year-old – in town bowing The Martian, a Fox film that’s been dubbed “Robinson Crusoe on Mars” – is earning some of the best notices he’s had in a while. Based on Andy Weir’s equally impressive novel, the film – surely a strong early contender for top awards – features a magnificent cast (including Kristen Wiig, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean and Rooney Mara) whose characters are joined together in one mission…try and bring home Matt Damon’s astronaut Mark Watney, who has been left stranded on Mars. Variety’s Peter Debruge called the film “an enthralling and rigorously realistic outer-space survival story,” while UPROXX’s Mike Ryan praised Damon’s performance. And, by all accounts, there’s no one who’s enjoying this “comeback” more than this man who has the rapt eyes of a shark moving with purpose, ceaselessly swimming forward. “I see it as like being a athlete,” Scott told me, at a mellow pre-party for his premiere, held in the slim glassed atrium of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. “You can’t let yourself go soft.” Matt Damon, who was caught in another conversational hubbub next to us at the party, is probably only too elated to hear this: Thanks to Scott, he’s in the Oscar convo for the first time in a long time. Recent space-bound astronaut-in-peril film Gravity certainly delivered a powerful story defined by stunning special effects, but The Martian with its underlying sense of compassion and determination feels a remarkably balanced film.

Is it as good as Brian De Palma’s Mission to Mars, in which Tim Robbins and Connie Nielsen’s slow dance in Zero Gs to Van Halen’s Dance the Night Away? He tweeted “we feel his solitude and horror without the movie being bleak,” and Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson echoed this “beautifully built” casting. TORONTO, ON – SEPTEMBER 11: Actress Rachel Weisz attends “The Lobster” premiere during the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival at Princess of Wales Theatre on September 11, 2015 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by George Pimentel/WireImage) My first carpet of the fest was for the North American premiere of The Lobster by Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos, starring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz and John C. Though Damon is always a steady presence, and was pretty nifty in that small-screen production of Behind the Candelabra, “it’s been a while since Damon led a notable big-screen hit,” as New York Magazine just pointed out, and The Martian is going to give him just that. Shortly after which, it was time for Scott to slip off into the evening lights of the city, and go walk the glimmering slope of red carpet for another space adventure, another night.

A trained botanist, he decides to put his scientific skills to work, starts to grow potatoes in a makeshift greenhouse, and scavenge for anything to help him survive. According to the rules of the dystopian society in which he lives, adults who are without a partner must find one in 45 days or be transformed into animals and sent into the wild. What I really wanted to ask her, before she launched into the romantic themes of the story, was what she thought the single people of the world might think of this film. The film brilliantly balances the desperate leaps of innovation and risk from Earthbound scientists with Watney’s struggles to keep alive in a tough and always hazardous environment.

Couldn’t the story be perceived as a metaphor for finding true love in mid life, a time where many people feel they’re forced to choose between settling or being alone forever? Take Rachel Weisz, who never shows up to premieres with her husband, and who had a jaunty retort to the question, “What’s it like being married to James Bond?” when asked just that at the unspooling here in Toronto of her film, The Lobster.

And when his crewmates – led by Jessica Chastain’s steely captain – learn their colleague is still alive, they also want to get involved in an increasingly complex and dangerous rescue plan. And there was even a mashed potato bar, which is sort of like an omelette bar, except it’s just guys in chef’s whites slinging stuff into whipped starch. Beautifully directed by Ridley Scott (who has an affinity with science-fiction material, as he has shown with films such as Alien, Blade Runner and Prometheus) the film is both grippingly entertaining and also fiercely intelligent, all driven by a series of wonderful performances. Much more openly synergistic when it comes to hitting celebrity dos together, he’s been by her side as she begins the promo for Sicario, in which she gives one of TIFF’s top-shelf performances. “John showing face means Emily’s ready to start campaigning for Oscar,” is how a post on put it, reading the tea-leaves and I concur.

In case you’re wondering what the F a dystopian universe is, it’s Greek terminology for an imaginary community or society that is undesirable or frightening. Like one of the catering staff came up to me and said, straight-faced, no joke, “Care for some mashed potatoes with lobster and caviar?” To which I obviously replied that, yes, yes I would care for some, before turning inward and wondering, “Is this how the wealthy eat?” There’s something hilarious — and, maybe, noxious — about taking a basic, foundational foodstuff like the potato and then topping it with expensive crustacean meat and fish eggs. I watched John dutifully stand in a corner at a party held for Emily’s movie at Soho House – close, but not too close, letting his wife do her thing, but there in a pinch. “She’s amazing in the movie,” he told me when we briefly spoke. Like many of the media on the carpet (the women among us anyway), I wondered if Colin Farrell, who stars alongside Weisz in the film, might make a surprise appearance despite not being listed as a confirmed guest. Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen attend Sony Pictures Classics after party for I Saw The Light. (Todd Williamson/Getty Images for Sony Pictures Classics) Then, there’s Elizabeth Olsen and Tom Hiddleston, a couple in the movie I Saw the Light, and also getting quite a bit of attention for their relationship off-camera.

Still, it was fun, in a way, marvelling at the modest decadence and nudging my friend every time I saw an ostensibly famous person and proclaiming, “Look! While he was everywhere pressing the flesh, and being professionally charming – even courteously asking for his own tequila, Casamigos, while he stopped for drinks in the lobby bar of the Shangri-La – his superhero missus, Amal, was in Sri Lanka, meeting with the prime minister, after spending a few tense days in the Maldives where the international human rights lawyer is involved in a fight to defend its deposed president, Mohamed Nasheed.

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