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TIFF Report: The Martian

Who’s in it: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig

Who’s behind it: Directed by Ridley Scott, written by Drew Goddard, based on the novel by Andy Weir

Who’ll love it: Those who like their sci-fi heavier on science than fiction. Fans of disco music and wisecracks should also find plenty to enjoy.

What it’s about: When a storm on Mars forces a group of visiting NASA astronauts to abandon their mission, crew member Mark Watney (Damon) is left behind and presumed dead. Beating the odds, he manages to survive the incident, but help won’t be able to reach him in this remote location for hundreds of days. Fortunately, Watney happens to be a botanist, putting him in a prime position to grow the food he needs to survive. This works out even better than expected—until a series of unexpected events force a sudden change of plan. For Watney to make it back to Earth, his former crewmates will need to pull out all the stops in an innovative rescue mission.

Why you should see it: Director Ridley Scott isn’t known for his sense of humour, but working with Matt Damon—who thrives spending most of his screen time alone—and screenwriter Drew Goddard, he injects this story with unlikely levity. This also manifests itself in the film’s disco-heavy soundtrack, which plays like an ongoing homage to Guardians of the Galaxy’s similarly retro playlist. While all this playfulness diminishes the film’s sense of peril and consequence somewhat, and The Martian is overtly (even proudly) formulaic, Scott’s polished craftsmanship and starry cast lifts this above the level of schlock to something bordering on prestige science fiction. Arguably the director’s most crowd-pleasing effort, The Martian is likely to emerge as a fall blockbuster on par with 2013’s Gravity.

When you can see it: Saturday, September 12 at 12pm (Roy Thomson Hall); Thursday, September 17 at 3pm (Princess of Wales); Friday, September 18 at 6pm (TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema 2). Tickets available here. Opens wide October 2.

Watch the trailer here, and check out the poster below:

the martian