TIFF: 'The Martian' and Matt Damon Blast Off Into What Could Be an Awards Trajectory

It's been a long time since Ridley Scott made a movie that people got really excited about. His cold streak — which began after 2000's Gladiator, or 2007's American Gangster, if you're feeling generous — is now over. What put an end to it? A return to his roots — in space, of course, namely The Martian, an epic sci-fi dramedy starring Oscar winner Matt Damon that had its world premiere on Friday night at Roy Thomson Hall and will be released nationwide by Fox on Oct. 2.

In the crowd-pleaser, which Drew Goddard adapted from Andy Weir's novel, Damon plays a NASA astronaut who, during a mission to far-away Mars, is involved in an accident, presumed dead and left behind by his fleeing shipmates (led by Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain). The rest of the film is essentially about how Damon approaches his awful predicament and others weigh various scientific ways of saving him.

That might read like just another in a long line of lost-in-space movies we've all seen, but because of the perfect matching of a quirky script (without a villain), with a surprisingly vivacious director (music plays a fun role in the film) and a perfectly-cast star (a likable everyman who behaves as we would like to think we would in such a harrowing situation), it rises to another level.

But is it an Oscar movie? In other words, is it Gravity (10 noms, including best picture and best actress, and seven wins, including best director) or Guardians of the Galaxy (two tech noms, zero wins)? It certainly shares a lot in common with both...

My hunch is that it will actually be somewhere in-between. It certainly could be a player in the below-the-line categories such as cinematography (Dariusz Wolski), sound editing, sound mixing and VFX. But I also think Damon could show up in lead (for what would be his third acting nom), possibly even joined by Chastain in supporting. And think Scott, a three-time best director Oscar nominee, whom generations of filmmakers greatly respect, could also register a nom. A best picture nom still seems a bit of a stretch.