Tag Archives: Matt Damon

The Martian Review

The Martian Review: Ridley Scott and Matt Damon find their movie magic again. On Mars of all places.

Ridley Scott has confused me somewhat over the last few years. His output has been steady to the point of releasing a film at an annual basis. His last handful of movies left me cold and underwhelmed. He seemed to be chasing quantity rather than taking the time to focus on quality. Understandably, I went into The Martian with some trepidation. Was this going to be another critical flop from such a prolific director, or would all the pieces at play come together to give us a fun, entertaining, and thought provoking movie? I won’t leave you sitting in suspense. The Martian is a very good film. Ridley Scott seems to have found some magic left in his bag of tricks and delivers a heck of a good time. This is a movie review, however, so I can’t simply leave it at that. Let’s take a closer look at what The Martian had going for it.


The movie plops us right into the middle of the action. We’re instantly treated to the wide, dusty red vista’s of mysterious Mars. A team of astronauts are diligently performing their duties gathering soil samples and other scientific duties. It’s not long after (and I do mean not long) that a massive storm derails the mission and they’re forced to evacuate. While on their way back to the escape craft astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is struck by debris and left for dead. That entire sequence makes for an attention hooking, exciting opening, but I do wish that there had been a little more with the team as a whole. Sure, prior to the accident we get tons of witty banter and a clear picture of the camaraderie between them all, but a little more of that would have perhaps given us a larger emotional investment into Watney’s ordeal and his team’s determination to get him back. Nevertheless the crew returns to their ship and heads back to Earth, unaware that Watney is alive.


The rest of the film details Watney’s survival attempts. Though in a dire situation he’s in good spirits, which helps the audience have fun. Intercut with Watney’s chores are the actions of NASA who must walk the line between risking a mission to save Watney and keeping public approval high while understanding that Watney is in a no win scenario. Jeff Daniels plays the head of NASA, and while he does a fine job he’s a little too unnecessarily villainous at times. It’s hinted at and perhaps mentioned in passing that the future of the entire space program could lie upon what the public, and more importantly, what the Mars crew know of Watney’s situation. Eventually they break down and inform the Mars crew about Watney’s survival and naturally his team wants to rescue him. Using some fancy space maneuvers and a little bit of Chinese intervention the team manages to get back to Mars and perform the daring rescue of this plucky astronaut we’ve grown to love. It’s a suitably happy ending for a film the maintains an optimistic point of view it’s entire run time.


The Martian is a film with all the necessary pieces for a cinematic classics. By and large everything fires on all cylinders and it’s a rip roaring good time throughout. As mentioned above I felt like Jeff Daniels character needed a better spotlight on his motivations to avoid just being a weak villain, which that character wasn’t. He was a big picture bureaucrat who’s interest centered on the entire space program rather than a single life. Speaking of life there were times the stakes didn’t carry the gravity they should have. Though Watney was in constant danger I never felt like he was ever truly at risk. It was a little too easy to sit back, watch, and know Mark Watney will make it home safe and sound. Spoiler warning: There are zero casualties in this film. Everyone gets to go home to their lives and families no worse for wear. I feel like a zealot calling for blood, but perhaps if one of the more background crew members had perished in the rescue attempt the heavy stakes I was looking for would have been there. The Mar’s crew brought a lot of warmth and character to the film, but I would have liked more of them. Still, all that said, I had a great time watching this movie. I highly recommend it for anyone looking to get some fun, well made entertainment. 

The Talented Mr. Ripley

the Talented-Mr-Ripley

The Talented Mr. Ripley: A Perfect Movie

What I Remembered: Based on its trailer and cast, I was eagerly awaiting the release of The Talented Mr. Ripley when I first saw it in the theater soon after Christmas in 1999. That had ended up being a particularly fantastic year for movies and with such jewels like American Beauty, Magnolia, The Insider, and The Hurricane having come out and I was anxious to see if it could match those great works. Furthermore, having just completed a marathon speed reading session of the novel that it was based on, I was champing at the bit for it. From the opening credits, I knew I would love it and have never stopped. To this day, I can’t claim much neutrality towards it as I thought every aspect of it was perfect. It solidified Matt Damon and Philip Seymour Hoffman as two of my favorite actors, deepened my respect for Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow,(Unfortunately, with the latter that has dwindled considerably in recent years.) and formed a love for the books of Patricia Highsmith that still remains. The Talented Mr. Ripley is one of my favorite films and probably will be forever.

The Story: The Talented Mr. Ripley revolves around its protagonist, Tom Ripley. It opens in the late 1950’s in New York City with Tom accompanying an Opera singer named Fran on piano during a party from some very wealthy, upscale people. After Tom and Fran finish their set he is approached by the host Herbert Richard Greenleaf (James Rebhorn) a shipping magnate and his wife who compliment his piano playing. Noticing that Tom is wearing a Princeton jacket Mr. Greenleaf inquires if Tom knows his son Dickie (Jude Law) since they would have attended the university at the same time. After a second’s hesitation, Tom asks how Dickie is and Mr. Greenleaf informs him that he has been living in Europe. (It is clear to the viewer that Tom and has never previously met nor heard of Dickie until this moment.) Mr. Greenleaf is impressed with Tom and promises to contact him after the party.

talented mr. ripley

Once Tom leaves the party, it is discovered that he is no Princeton graduate and that he and Fran were not a couple as Mr. Greenleaf had assumed. Tom had merely been filling in for Fran’s pianist boyfriend who has a broken arm and the jacket he wore was borrowed from the boyfriend. Instead of living a lavish lifestyle, Tom works as a bathroom attendant at the Metropolitan Opera and lives in a flea bag ground floor apartment in the meat packing district.

The movie then cuts to Tom meeting with Mr. Greenleaf at the shipyard where Dickie’s father oversees his empire. Mr. Greenleaf offers to pay Tom one thousand dollars to go to Italy where Dickie is living and persuade him to come back to the United States where Dickie will be groomed to take over the family business. Tom is appearently somewhat reluctant, but decides to undertake the task.

Tom then immerses himself in the life of Dickie with the little information that he has. This is includes training himself in the intricacies of Cool Jazz of which Dickie is an enormous fan.

Tom then ventures to Italy on the Greenleafs’ dime, traveling first class on a Cunard line ship. When he arrives he deceptively “bumps into” Dickie and his fiancé, Marge Sherwood(Gwyneth Paltrow) claiming that they had been friends at Princeton. Dickie is cool to Tom at first, but warms to him after Marge invites him to lunch. Tom, Dickie and Marge develop a fast friendship and he tells them of the real reason he was sent to Italy. What Dickie and Marge don’t know is that their life together will never be the same now that Tom has entered it.


Technical Details: In my estimation, everything about this picture is technically perfect. Anthony Minghella penned a phenomenal script, which although it deviated slightly from its source material, kept its essence perfectly. Furthermore, his direction was first rate as through exemplary editing, extraordinary cinematography, the use of a great score and the ability to illicit pitch perfect performances from his actors he was able to create the atmosphere of Ripley’s world in an astounding way. This was clearly the case with James Rehborn, Jude Law, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Gwyneth Paltrow and Cate Blanchette, all of whom played their parts with exquisite realism.

By far the star of the film was Matt Damon. He played the psychopathic, manipulative, yet charming character of Tom Ripley so well it gave me goosebumps and still does. Based on this movie and his past work in School Ties and Goodwill Hunting, it is no surprise that he would later emerge as one of the best actors of his generation. His portrayal of Tom Ripley was one of the best I have ever seen and was everything that great acting should be.

The only hangup I have when it comes to this movie is that it was not nominated for more Academy Awards and didn’t win any.

End Credits: The Talented Mr. Ripley is a masterpiece. It is exciting. It is intriguing and technically proficient. It takes turns you would not expect and provides a wonderful escape for all those who see it. You are doing yourself a disservice if you haven’t seen it. So, you should.