I have never really known that much about the true story that lead to landing on the moon. Other than the names Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin being cemented in my brain from a young age. This fascinating drama tells the story from the perspective of Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) offering a very personal angle, focusing on his own tragedies and his relationship with his wife (The Crown’s Clare Foy), with the Astronort mission(s) almost background.
Considering the aim of landing on the moon became an egotistical race against Russia to be the first, I was surprised with the lack of that usual American patriotism and vitriol, especially in the final act, leading to a rather downer ending. Also the eventual moon landing is a bit under-played, fitting with the more somber tone of the rest of the movie – but by that moment it should have felt epic.
Gosling is great, one his best performances I’d say and carries the movie well. Foy doesn’t fair quite as well, awkwardly trying to shake her Queen Elizabeth accent for an upper class American one. Also considering his status in history, Buzz Aldrin is simply ‘there’ with very little focus. The movie kind of portrays the man as a bit of a joke too. Yet the impending dread of each mission, the clear insane danger of it all, and the attention to authentic detail has to be applauded. Worth a watch but not quite all it could have been.
There seems to have been a bit of a trend in recent years for quality science fiction, or more literally quality space travel movies. I think it began with Doug Jones’ acclaimed ‘Moon’ and then followed through with Gravity and then Interstellar. Hollywood seems to have fallen in love with the great vastness of space again, and I have fallen in love along with them. So this latest effort was high on my must see list.
Matt Damon plays astronaut Mark Watney who following an expedition to Mars, is left unknowingly behind by his crew following a freak sand storm. With everyone thinking he is dead and a memorial back home, Watney has to learn how to survive on an alien planet until he can find out a way of communicating and hopefully getting rescued. Based on the book by Andy Wier and directed by genre heavy-weight Ridley Scott, this is a gripping concept as we watch Damon put all his scientific knowhow to the test and learn to adapt to a harsh environment. Back home Nasa and its myriad of boffins are also trying to figure out a way to save their man, headed by Jeff Daniels and supported by Kristina Wiig and Sean Bean amongst various other familiar faces. Oh and the crew that left Watney behind get the always watchable Jessica Chastian as their commander. It’s clear to me this was a bit of a labour of love and is choc-full of detail and science terminology (even days are referred to a sol 1 and sol 2 etc). Yet beyond some of the realism and authenticity the movie also finds room for well judged humour. We also get a strongly potent emotional thread that builds and gets pretty heart-breaking. Everyone here is on very good form but it’s obviously Damon’s show and he is simply superb…charismatic in the face of adversity and also very believable. He’d have been my tip for Best Actor at the Oscars but sadly it wasn’t to be.
In addition to such a solid, layered performance however is excellent direction from Scott, who aided by cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, proves again he’s a master at capturing the perfect look and feel for Science Fiction, and redeems himself after the muddled Prometheus. Some of the shots and vistas and photography here are jaw-dropping. Honestly, there is very little I can say negative about this one apart from hey, where were Mark Watney’s parents?? And the first act is a trifle slow, but that’s some serious nit-picking. If you are fascinated by space travel or are just attracted to decent human survival dramas, not unlike The Revenant I’ll add … then you have to see this.
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