THE MARTIAN (12)
The six-strong crew of the Ares 3, led by Commander Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain), are gathering samples on Mars when sensors pick up an approaching storm. Lewis gives the order to evacuate and, during the trek back to the ship, botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is hit by flying debris.
“I know you don’t want to hear this: Mark’s dead,” crew member Beck (Sebastian Stan) informs Lewis, who reluctantly blasts off with the rest of her team: Johanssen (Kate Mara), Martinez (Michael Pena) and Vogel (Aksel Hennie). They begin the long journey back to mission control, crestfallen by their loss. Little do they realise that, back on Mars, Watney is alive.
Meanwhile, on Earth, Nasa administrator Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels), director of Mars missions Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Ares 3 flight director Mitch Henderson (Sean Bean) cut corners to let Mark know the cavalry is coming.
Adapted from the bestselling novel by Andy Weir, The Martian is a riveting survival thriller set 140million miles from home, which bears obvious similarities to the Oscar-winning thriller
Gravity in both set-up and execution.
Director Ridley Scott employs the 3D format, available exclusively on Blu-ray, to dazzling effect in turbo-charged action sequences. However, this is primarily a meditation on the endurance of the human spirit and, in these quieter moments, Drew Goddard’s lean script and lead actor Damon hold us spellbound.
“I’m not going to die here,” Mark tells himself as he faces each obstacle with gritty determination, raising his spirits (and ours) with flashes of humour including a running joke about Commander Lewis’s disco-heavy music collection.
THE LOBSTER (15)
In a near, dystopian future, single people are transported to The Hotel run by a manager (Olivia Colman), who explains that all guests have 45 days to find a soulmate among the other residents. Anyone who fails to find a partner will be transformed into a wild animal that reflects their personality traits.
A widower called David (Colin Farrell) arrives at The Hotel and befriends a Lisping Man (John C. Reilly) and a Limping Man (Ben Whishaw). They look for potential mates among the female population, including a Nosebleed Woman (Jessica Barden) and a Heartless Woman (Angeliki Papoulia).
As the days pass without a hint of romance, David grows increasingly desperate and he flees The Hotel and escapes into the nearby woods, where he becomes part of the Loners, who believe in a solitary existence. In this idyll of enforced individuality controlled by a suspicious leader (Lea Seydoux), David falls for a Short Sighted Woman (Rachel Weisz), but they hide their feelings well.
The Lobster is another breathtaking portrait of human behaviour from Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos, who won numerous awards for Dogtooth and Alps. It’s a quirky comedy drama of two halves: the opening salvo at The Hotel is dazzling, blessed with wondrous flights
of fantasy and imagination.
Once the plot camps in the woods, some of that magic dissipates as momentum builds to a predictably sombre resolution.
Farrell and Weisz are an attractive screen pairing, the former sporting a magnificent belly for the role, while Whishaw, Reilly and Colman add delightful flecks of colour to well-drawn supporting characters.