Matt Damon received a golden globe nod for his portrayal of Mark Watney in Ridley Scott’s The Martian. (Oscar nods not out yet as of the date of this post)
The Martian is a terrific film about survival and hope. Honestly, I was a bit apprehensive about it as I’ve always felt that Ridley Scott has lost his touch, but in this film, he once again reminds us why he is such a great storyteller. I really love his visual style and how he creates atmosphere in his movies. I don’t even know what to classify this film as: A sci-fiction thriller? Drama? Comedy? It’s an amalgamation of the best elements from all these genres, and I think that’s what makes it so unique. Although I don’t think I understood everything, it also manages to incorporate all those science-y geeky stuff and make them interesting and unpretentious, unlike Interstellar (Which I still love by the way, but yes I’ll admit it was a bit pretentious). The supporting cast members give solid performances despite their thin roles, especially Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Jeff Daniels.
It’s interesting that Matt Damon was cast in the lead role of this film, considering that this is the typical kind of roles that Matthew McConaughey would have played these days. Damon is an actor whom I generally like, though I wouldn’t say he is one of my absolute favourite. I always thought he was a fantastic Jason Bourne, and I liked his small roles in the Ocean’s series as well.
One thing I really appreciated about Damon’s performance is the dry, sarcastic humour he brings to the part. I liked how he portrayed humour as the character’s way of dealing with his predicament. It’s the kind of humour I appreciate: witty, dry and cynical. It really says a lot about Watney’s personality, and how he has this “fuck it, at least I am going to try” mentality that I find very relatable.
I know some people were expecting some major breakdown scene like Sandra Bullock in Gravity, and while that would have made the performance extra awards-baity, I feel that it wouldn’t have fitted Watney’s personality. Yes, there were outbursts of frustration and anger here and there, but to me, Watney is a quick thinker and a guy with a “never say die” attitude. Even in moments of despair, he never wallows in self pity, but instead searches his mind for a plan b. Damon effectively captures the whole “man vs. nature” aspect of the performance brilliantly, and there is always this sense of urgency and danger as you watch Watney race against time and nature to survive. He portrays Watney’s intelligence and wit with a kind of enjoyable cockiness which never becomes annoying, because you know that the man has a damn right to be cocky. After all, he managed to survive so long on his own.
Of course, there were also the key dramatic moments in the entire performance that worked effectively as well, like his farewell message to commander Lewis. Damon handled this scenes very effectively and realistically. My main issue with this performance, however, is how he disappears for a portion of the film when it focuses on the ground people instead. Of course, that segment was very exciting, but it did draw away my attention from Damon’s one man show and it did lose a bit of impact. Still, a great performance in a great movie. 4.5/5.