Mission to Mars

on March 10, 2000 by Francesca Dinglasan
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   It's said that everything moves slower in space, and that concept certainly comes across in "Mission to Mars," the latest sci-fi flick to offer its take on the possibility of life beyond our terrestrial sphere. The film's plot, centering around the latest mission of astronauts and longtime friends Jim (Gary Sinise), Luc (Don Cheadle), Phil (Jerry O'Connell) and married couple Woody (Tim Robbins) and Terri (Connie Nielsen), takes a seeming eternity to develop, bogged down by inutile character development as well as overlong action sequences that fail at building some much-needed suspense.
   The pic opens with a barbecue celebrating the impending launch. Through the course of the social gathering (pierced with countless heartfelt talks and hugs), viewers learn that although Luc is the one leading his crew on the virgin journey to the Red Planet, it's really Jim who should be heading the mission, considering he was the driving force behind the years of research leading up to he event. Jim, however, is unresentful and somber, having given up the commanding post because of the death of his wife (Kim Delaney), whose image and supportive words frequently appear throughout the film via Jim's memories and home videos.
   When Luc's vessel lands on the region of Mars known as Cydonia, a catastrophic event revolving around the infamous "face" on the planet's landscape results in the death of his crew and his transmission of a distress call. Jim receives the SOS message at his communications station orbiting the earth, and after much approbation of the most cliched sort from his colleagues ("If anyone can do it, Jim can," "We've got a real shot here!"), he, along with Phil, Woody and Terri set out on a rescue mission.
   Besides a number of visually arresting scenes, particularly the vibrant setting of Mars itself and the dizzying structure of Jim's cylindrical spacecraft, the film's weaknesses are too numerous for mere eye candy, no matter how grandiose, to overcome. However, it's the waste of the impressive ensemble cast on cheap, pedestrian dialogue and a tabloid-style hypothesis of Martian civilization that makes this "Mission" impossible to watch.    Starring Gary Sinise, Don Cheadle, Connie Nielsen, Jerry O'Connell, Tim Robbins and Kim Delaney. Directed by Brian DePalma. Written by Ted Tally, Jim Thomas, John Thomas and Graham Yost. Produced by Tom Jacobson and Sam Mercer. A Buena Vista release. SF. Rated PG for some violence. Running time: 113 min.
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