Not a single minute went by in The Martian's 140-minute run time where I was not attached to the screen in sustained entertainment. Director Ridley Scott has fashioned a fictional tale (based on the novel by Andy Weir) of an ill-fated Mars mission that strands botanist Mark Watney on the hostile surface of the red planet, yet somehow makes it feel as though it's based on a true story. The science, the dialogue, and especially the narrative all feel like they are telling the audience a story of "fact," which is where the utmost power of this film lies - the fact that the film fees realistic in nature, allowing the audience to freely connect themselves to the strengths of Matt Damon's career-defining, Oscar-caliber performance.
The Martian is a true crowd-pleaser. It's one of those rare motion pictures that everyone seems to get behind, and for good reason. Where unfair comparisons have been made to the Oscar-winning Interstellar and Gravity before it, The Martian instead succeeds on its own merit because its story is supplemented, and not led, by the science introduced to the already-strong narrative of the survival of its lead character. I would put The Martian more in league with Tom Hanks' Cast Away than I would any of those other space-based films.
While Damon's performance is what drives the film to its heights of greatness, the rest of the ensemble cast shines each and every one of them. Many heroic and dramatic moments are presented to allow multiple characters their chance in the spotlight, giving the overall film a full, satisfying presence. The Martian is on point with its humor, and while there is plenty of drama, the film strives more for entertaining than it does pushing the buttons of tear-shedding emotion. Matt Damon's Mark Watney is a character of genius, ingenuity, and charisma that is very easy to like, especially in his ability to not force us to feel sorry for him, but to travel along on his mission as the people back on Earth scrounge to find a way to bring him home.
The Middle-Eastern locations pass for a realistic-looking Mars surface - benefited by the expert lensing of cinematographer Dariusz Wolski (a Ridley Scott regular) - lending to many of the shots and sets to already feel iconic in film history. Editor Pietro Scalia helps keep the film tight and never rushed, making its run time feel a lot shorter than what it is.
The music is great, the editing is fluid, the acting is tremendous, and the entertainment value is top-notch. Given his recent lack of outstanding work, Ridley Scott's The Martian is the nearest thing to a masterpiece that he's made since before 2001s Black Hawk Down, and could be considered one of the best movies he's made in his four-decades-spanning film making career. Highly recommended.