This movie “blasted off,” with its release and the discovery of water on Mars occurring almost simultaneously.
Mark Whatney (Matt Damon) is an astronaut with expertise in Botany. He is part of a crew sent to explore Mars. Mark is outside the spacecraft performing research when a severe storm forces the Captain, Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain), to precipitously abort the mission and leave Mars to avoid the spaceship being destroyed. Visibility is extremely poor during the storm. The crew also learns that Mark’s space suit has been irrevocably compromised during the storm, so they are almost positive that he is dead. They briefly look for him, but, to prevent their deaths, the Captain orders the crew to launch the ship and head back to Earth.
Mark, however, is alive, although his chance of surviving with limited food and other supplies is extremely small. This film is about Mark’s ingenuity, persistence, hope, and his ability to survive the intense loneliness while awaiting his improbable rescue. In addition to the nearly-impossible situation he is initially faced with, he also has to overcome several unanticipated disasters which would have made me reach for the cyanide capsules!
This is Damon’s film, and he does a great job. It’s a nice straight-ahead story told well, but I thought is was about 20 minutes too long. The Mars landscape was realistic (first-hand knowledge based on my several top-secret missions to the “red planet”), but at times monotonous.
Until Elon Musk (SpaceX and Tesla CEO) makes a vacation to Mars affordable, however, this is about as close to Mars as one can get, (unless, of course, you are eating a Snickers).