Having never seen a Spanish science fiction movie, Stranded was a pleasant surprise that kept on getting better and better. It’s a refreshing albeit flawed movie set on Mars and featuring quite an interesting story. I believe you’re aware of 2015 hit The Martian based on a 2011 novel of the same name. We follow poor Matt Damon who finds himself alone on the Red Planet, fighting for survival after an accident that leaves him stranded. Here, we follow pretty much the same storyline. However, the vibe is much more down-the-earth and authentic. This means that no, we will not be eating poop potatoes here if you were wondering.
Stranded is a much more depressive and desolate experience. You just need to go through the first twenty minutes of heavy exposition combined with some pretty wooden acting. After that, things start looking much better. The fact that one of the crew members is called Sagan helps to get through these difficult portions of the movie. Luckily, the dialogue and general vibe of the story make up for that tedious intro. The reactions to the horrible news are human and not overly melodramatic and fake. They seem genuine and sincere which establishes this foreboding atmosphere that follows us ’till the end. This is above all a human story, a story that ties in with our survival on Earth. It also features some rather interesting twists and turns that keep the story really alive.
Seven brave astronauts aboard the Ares, a spacecraft currently orbiting Mars are about to make history. They are members of the first manned mission to Mars with the task of exploring the planet. Everything so far has gone according to plan. However, upon entering the orbit, something goes horribly wrong and they lose control of the vessel, crashing hard into the unforgiving red sands…
Visually stunning for such a low budget, Stranded offers hauntingly beautiful and alien vistas of the Red Planet. Above all, they are very effective and provide a much-needed break from the cramped spaces of the spaceship. Whoever did the location scouting deserves a medal. As I already mentioned, the acting is pretty bad at times with Vincent Gallo and Joaquim de Almeida as the only two good members of the cast. Moreover, we get Johnny Ramone of the famous punk band Ramones as Lowell. He was a good friend with Gallo and I suspect this is how he wound up here.
The focus of this movie is that pull towards that final frontier. That thing that made our ancestors venture out and find new places to live. Our crew is trying to do the same with the inhospitable environment on Mars. At times I felt like I was really there in that vast desert, millions of miles from civilization and help. It’s both an exhilarating and very frightening feeling. In another words, the gripping atmosphere is the thing I think they nailed here. If you’re looking for similar movies check out Europa Report, The Last Days on Mars and Red Planet. Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention more entertaining movies like Ghosts of Mars, Doom and cult classic Total Recall. Enjoy.
Director: María Lidón
Writer: Juan Miguel Aguilera
Cast: Vincent Gallo, Maria de Medeiros, Joaquim de Almeida, María Lidón, Danel Aser, Johnny Ramone, José Sancho