*** Guest Reviews Courtesy of Reel True Owner Greg Rouleau
It’s undeniable that director Ridley Scott is one of the all-time greats, but it’s also been a rough few years for the auteur who, despite putting out films at a rapid pace, has unfortunately seen most of them met with lukewarm-at-best reception. The Martian is here to turn that all around. Adopted from the book of the same name, the film tells the story of an astronaut, Mark Watney, who is stranded on Mars after being hit with debris in a storm and unable to escape with the rest of his crew. There, he must fend for himself as the sole human on the planet, with only his botany skills and indomitable spirit keeping him alive.
Compared to recent sci-fi blockbusters, it lacks the intensity of Gravity, as well as the scope and vision of Interstellar, but there’s still plenty to enjoy. Matt Damon is outstanding and charming as the deserted Watney, forced to improvise survival methods as we hope to witness his rescue. A surprising element of The Martian is its levity. While there’s surely a decent amount of drama and spectacle on display, many characters in the large ensemble are given a chance to show off some comedic chops, too. The somewhat lighthearted tone and conventional story here are surprising, but also likely key in what should be a major success commercially. While it’s not on the level of his greatest hits, it’s welcome to see Sir Ridley on the right path again and The Martian is decidedly enjoyable from start to finish.
At last, fall movie season has arrived and with it, brings one of the best movies of the year, Sicario. Denis Villeneuve’s tightly paced thriller is a masterwork of crafting tension and a brutal, violent, bloody look at the war on drugs around the Mexican border. Benicio Del Toro, giving his best performance since the actor’s Oscar winning turn in Traffic, oozes machismo as Alejandro, the government agent with an ambiguous past. Emily Blunt shines in her role as the FBI representative who aids the special task force assigned to locate a Mexican drug lord.
Throughout much of the film, Blunt’s character is kept in the dark when it comes to specifics of the mission and even certain team member’s allegiances. Villeneuve does a fantastic job of putting us in her shoes, particularly in one of the film’s best scenes, when the task force heads to Juarez to extradite a prisoner. With such a powerful subject matter, Sicario does leave a little to be desired when it comes to examining the intricacies of the actual task at hand; it’s pretty much here’s the bad guy – let’s get him. But with the stellar performances, I’d be remiss to not also mention Josh Brolin, and a plot that unfolds in such a gripping manner, it’s easy to overlook a few shortcomings. It’s also worth pointing out the wonderful technical craft on display, in particular, Roger Deakins’ always beautiful cinematography and Oscar winner Johann Johannsson’s intense score. Sicario is not one to be missed.