Review: ‘Passage to Mars’ chronicles Arctic survival adventure

The HMP Okarian, a modified Humvee, in the documentary "Passage to Mars."
(Sundance Selects)

Grafting stirring footage taken of the Red Planet onto a stiffly dramatized thriller about an actual training expedition in the high Arctic, Jean-Christophe Jeauffre’s “Passage to Mars” raises the question, where’s Matt Damon when you need him?

Truth be told, there’s little the “Martian” star would have been able to do to salvage this misguided hybrid that makes tediously clear from the outset that the conceit just isn’t working.

Taking place en route to Devon Island, an isolated Arctic outpost dubbed “Mars-on-Earth,” by NASA, the film follows a crew of six on a 2,000-mile trek aboard the HMP Okarian, an experimental vehicle that serves a key role in prepping for manned voyages to the fourth orb in our solar system.

Had filmmaker Jeauffre, who spent two years recording an expedition originally expected to last several weeks, taken more of a traditional documentary path, the foreboding terrain alone would have provided an intriguing contrast to the collage of evocative extraterrestrial images captured over the years by robots and orbital craft.


But that thriller overlay, narrated with detached affectation by an off-screen Zachary Quinto, reading from the expedition log of Pascal Lee (the real-life director of the Northwest Passage Drive Expedition), proves as pointless as the inclusion of disembodied “guest voice appearances” by astronaut Buzz Aldrin and Charlotte Rampling, quoting a Ray Bradbury passage.


‘Passage to Mars’

Not rated


Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

Playing: Arena Cinelounge at the Montalban Theatre, Hollywood; also on VOD

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