Thursday, March 03, 2016
Mission to Mars
Directed by Brian De Palma and screenplay by Jim Thomas, John Thomas, and Graham Yost from a story by Jim Thomas, John Thomas, and Lowell Cannon, Mission to Mars is the story of a group of astronauts who go on a rescue mission to Mars following a previous mission where things went wrong with one of their friends being its lone survivor. The film is a simple yet grand story about a rescue mission set in outer space where astronauts discovery the mysteries of the universe and this planet called Mars. Starring Gary Sinise, Don Cheadle, Connie Nielsen, Jerry O’Connell, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Kim Delaney, and Tim Robbins. Mission to Mars is an interesting but very lackluster film from Brian De Palma.
The film revolves around a rescue mission during an expedition on Mars where another group of astronauts make a huge discovery only for things go wrong leaving only one survivor and his friends doing the rescue mission. Along the way, many things go wrong as they all try to ponder what is going on in this planet of Mars as well as this mysterious thing in the planet. It’s a film that has a unique concept but there’s a lot of these aspects of sci-fi mumbo-jumbo and existentialist themes that really lose sight into the main story where it has no idea what it wants to be. The film’s script does do some fine work in establishing the characters and situations but try to do so much to make it so much more where it ends being very messy as well as feature some very idiotic dialogue. When the third act comes in for the reveal of what is inside this mountain that is shaped like a face. It is one of these reveals that is like “huh?”
Brian De Palma’s direction is quite stylish in not just the usage of tracking shots and scenes that are shot in zero gravity but also in the fact that creates a setting that does feel futuristic but not too futuristic. The setting of outer space with its space stations and space shuttles are very unique and does have De Palma take great stock into the images and everything. For the scenes set on Mars, much of it was shot in Jordan with some scenes shot in Vancouver and at the Canary Islands to create a world that feels vast and everything where De Palma does great usage of the wide shots. Despite some of these stylish moments and compositions, De Palma is unable to rise above many of the script’s shortcomings while the vortex sequence is quite silly in the way an astronaut is killed off. By the time the film reaches its climax into this mysterious thing in the planet and what it reveals, it ends being this very odd moment that is confusing where it wants the audience to believe in all of these things but it doesn’t anything rational or logical to back it up. Overall, De Palma creates a very messy and underwhelming film about a rescue/existential expedition on Mars.
Cinematographer Stephen H. Burum does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography with its usage of filters for much of the film‘s exterior settings set on Mars as well as some unique lighting for the interiors of the ships. Editor Paul Hirsch does nice work with the editing as it helps play into the moments of suspense and drama as well as some bits of humor with its dissolves. Production designer Ed Verreaux, with art directors Andrew Neskoromny and Thomas Valentine and set decorator Lin MacDonald, does amazing work with the look of the space stations, its shuttles, and other vehicles used for the expeditions including some of its interiors. Costume designer Sanja Milkovic Hays does terrific work with the costumes from the look of the astronaut suits as well as the clothes they wear under the suits.
Visual effects supervisors John Knoll and Hoyt Yeatman does some fantastic work with some of the visual effects in the way Mars and the space stations looked though some of the sequences such as the vortex and what is revealed in the climax come off as very cheesy. Sound editors Lon Bender and Maurice Schell do superb work with some of the sound work in the film from the way some of the events that happen on Mars sound as well as the scenes set in space. The film’s music by Ennio Morricone is phenomenal as it’s one of the film’s highlights for its orchestral-based score that is filled with sweeping string arrangements as well as low-key pieces as it is a major highlight of the film.
The casting by Denise Chamian is wonderful as it features some notable small roles from Robert Bailey Jr. as Luke’s son Bobby, Elise Neal as Luke’s wife Debra, as members of Luke’s crew in the Mars expedition in Jill Teed, Peter Outerbridge, and Kavan Smith, Kim Delaney in a small role as Jim’s late wife Maggie who wrote many ideas into the Mars expedition before her death, and Armin Mueller-Stahl as the Mars expedition leader Ramier Beck who ponders about the rescue mission and how it must not fail. Jerry O’Connell is alright as Phil Ohlmyer as an astronaut who is part of the rescue mission as he is a comic relief of sorts but not given much to do. Tim Robbins is superb as the rescue mission leader Woody Blake who knows what to do as well as realize the severity of the mission where things go wrong forcing him to make some drastic decisions.
Connie Nielsen is brilliant as Woody’s wife and astronaut Terri Fisher who is part of the rescue mission as well as be someone that is capable of getting things done. Don Cheadle is amazing as Luke Graham as the astronaut who is among the first to go to Mars until something goes wrong in a discovery where he copes with being its sole survivor and later being rescued where he feels that he needs to discover what he and his crew had seen. Finally, there’s Gary Sinise in an excellent performance as Jim McConnell as a widowed astronaut who works as a consultant until he is asked to take part despite his emotional baggage where he deals with the mission at hand as well as what is out there.
Mission to Mars is a very disappointing film from Brian De Palma. Despite its cast, some cool visual effects, and a mesmerizing score by Ennio Morricone, the film is just a sci-fi film that wants to be a lot of things only to end up being very lightweight in its ambitions. In the end, Mission to Mars is just a terrible film from Brian De Palma.
Brian De Palma Films: (Murder a la Mod) - (Greetings) - (The Wedding Party) - (Dionysus in ‘69) - (Hi, Mom!) - (Get to Know Your Rabbit) - Sisters - (Phantom of the Paradise) - (Obsession) - Carrie - The Fury - (Home Movies) - Dressed to Kill - Blow Out - Scarface - (Body Double) - (Wise Guys) - The Untouchables - Casualties of War - The Bonfire of the Vanities - Raising Cain - Carlito’s Way - Mission: Impossible - Snake Eyes - (Femme Fatale) - The Black Dahlia - (Redacted) - (Passion (2012 film)) - (Domino (2018 film))
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