Ridley Scott‘s The Martian looks and sounds great, but the idea of being saved by friends willing to risk their lives as well as destroy their careers is, of course, at odds with human nature. You know what isn’t at odds with human nature? Scott’s The Counselor. Damon is toast in the way that Lee Marvin was toast when John Vernon shot him twice in that Alcatraz cell in Point Blank — everything that follows is a dream. The film’s sentimental scheme, initially popularized by Andy Weir’s 2011 novel, is for little boys and girls who want desperately to believe in liberty, equality and fraternity. If you want a more realistic capturing of the way things unfortunately tend to go in tough situations of this type, watch Mikhail Kalatozov‘s The Red Tent (’69).
“Oh, but anyway, Toto, we’re home…home! And this is my room and you’re all here and I’m not going to leave here ever, ever again, because I love you all! And…oh, Auntie Em, there’s no place like home!”
That aside I’m sure I’ll have a great time at The Martian when I see it in Toronto. I’ll invest in the illusions and the storytelling expertise and the general technology “sell” but I won’t believe the story. But no biggie. I can unhook my brain activity as well as the next guy.
The Red Tent is based on an an actual, somewhat similar rescue mission that happened in the late 1920s. The kind of bullshit that I expect to encounter in The Martian was utterly absent in The Red Tent, or so I recall. (It’s been a while.) It was about the tragedy of Umberto Nobile (Peter Finch), an Italian engineer and explorer who designed and flew the Italia, a polar airship that crashed near the North Pole. The disaster provoked an international rescue effort that led to the deaths of many others, some needlessly or due to selfish or ill-considered reasons. Sean Connery and Claudia Cardinale costarred. Mikhail Kalatozov directed; Robert Bolt did an uncredited rewrite.