Rating: Here's the rub: if you're trapped and isolated in a scary, inhospitable place, staying alive is only half the battle. The bigger issue is, assuming you do make it to rescue, staying sane. It's not as easy as it sounds: Sandra Bullock convinced herself it was a good idea to decrease oxygen pressure; Tom Hanks became best friends with a piece of product placement; and Matt Damon himself showed being "the best of us" was no guarantee of mental security when left alone with your own thoughts. The trick to it, and what every movie on this topic seems to forget, is to be jovial. Deep philosophical questions are all well and good, but to overcome crushing loneliness and insurmountable odds, a sharp, self-deprecating sense of humour is the best way to go. And that's why The Martian is so refreshing; for all its sci-fi thriller trappings, it's a surprisingly hilarious film. Matt Damon's Mark Watney is stranded on Mars after his crew believe him dead during an emergency evacuation - a pretty horrifying situation no matter how you look at it - and yet he can't even make it through a video recording on his new predicament without cracking wise. Throughout his isolation, whether to himself or when filming journal entries, he's riffing on his life-or-death situation to the point where there's more laughs here than in most comedies (sciencing the sh*t out of it is just the start). But it's hard to say you wouldn't do the same - this is a man on the brink, and feigning comedic relationships is the only way to make sure he'll still be him when/if rescue comes. You can take your silent vacuums and your carefully elaborated maths - that is real accuracy. Not that The Martian doesn't bring it in the science department. It's as accurate (and at points as inaccurate) as previous autumn sci-fi flicks Gravity and Interstellar; it's just not as bothered about flaunting that. What Ridley Scott really cares about is telling a great story. And what a story. This isn't just Cast Away on Mars or Matt Damon's Interstellar Cameo: The Movie or Apollo 13 on a bigger scale or Gravity with a third of Earth's gravity or whatever witty description you've worked up beforehand (my favourite's the Interstellar one). It could be described as all of those, sure, but each poster quote only tells part of the picture. This is a three-tiered narrative, with Mark trying to survive on Mars, the crew of his mission speeding across space further and further from their missing member and NASA dealing with a dead astronaut suddenly coming back to life. And while Damon gets the Thark's share of the focus, the whole ensemble cast get their own interesting arcs. It's truly expansive storytelling; each thread intersects in intricately dependent ways that build and build until we reach the edge-of-seat, sweaty-palms, breath-holdingly tense final half hour. At this point, let me just pause and make a quick note to all those who've seen the trailer and cried spoiler, alleging it "gives away the whole plot" - it doesn't (and neither does anything in my own summary). There's the broad strokes of some of the film in the teaser, but so many details are missing that it's giving away little more than a synopsis. Or, y'know, what a trailer for any other movie would. Wait until you've seen a film before deciding it's been ruined. Besides, The Martian is a movie about the how, rather than the what; you could know the ending and still be utterly surprised. For the second half of the review, click next.