Mission To Mars

Mission To Mars


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The movie that tossed Star Trek into the bucket was 2001: A Space Odyssey. Ever since, Stanley Kubrick had it to himself. The galaxy was his. Now, a year earlier in real time, Brian De Palma has invaded the hallowed sky with a film of equal seriousness.

The year is 2020. Astronauts are still behaving as they did in Apollo 13, having barbecue parties and drinking beer on the porch. Up top, where they work, it's different. Technically, you can go to lunch. These guys talk digital high fidelity science and what's more they don't need a spell check. It is comforting to know that everyone involved in this motion picture is doing the best they can to make it look right. No show offs. No swanky sci-fi. No crackups in the cockpit.

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De Palma, who loves to shock (Carrie) and can't get enough of the red stuff (Scarface), is a new man. He respects the heavens. He allows his visual effects maestro, Hoyt (The Abyss) Yeatman, to work wonders, which he does, so that he can concentrate on his trademark long takes, using theatre trained actors to great effect. This is truly a team show.

The first flight to Mars is lead by Luke Graham (Don Cheadle). It should have been Jim McConnell (Gary Sinise), who had done all the prelim work with wife, Maggie, before she died of cancer, after which he was considered emotionally unfit for the task.

Everything goes smoothly for Luke and his crew until, three months in, they go to investigate what appears to be ice on a mountain formation to the south and a strange wind gets up, causing terrifying damage. The real mission to Mars is a rescue mission. Woody Blake (Tim Robbins), his wife Terri (Connie Nielsen), computer specialist Phil Ohlmyer (Jerry O'Connell) and Jim are sent. What happens to them and what they find is almost beyond belief.

By treating the script intelligently, De Palma is following Kubrick's example. The impossible is only credible when taken literally. Spielberg's musical message from the landed saucer in Close Encounters Of The Third Kind seems crude compared to the Martian sound waves that Luke records. Endings are hardest in outer space. Kubrick didn't crack it. Nor does De Palma. The inexplicable requires faith and rationality. Homo sapiens cannot handle mystery. It's too... alien.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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A rescue bid is launched after disaster strikes a manned space flight to Mars.
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Director: Brian De Palma

Writer: Jim Thomas, John Thomas, Graham Yost

Starring: Gary Sinise, Tim Robbins, Don Cheadle, Connie Nielsen, Jerry O'Connell, Peter Outerbridge, Kavan Smith, Jill Teed, Elise Neal, Kim Delaney, Marilyn Norry

Year: 1999

Runtime: 112 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US


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