Well, well, well, what do we have here? A science fiction movie set on the inhospitable surface of Mars with strong horror elements? Well, count me the fuck in! The Last Days on Mars is a movie of two halves and a lot of missed opportunities. While the first 45 minutes were intense and full of this uncomfortable and foreboding atmosphere, the second half was a classic run-for-your-life derivative horror mess. From that point on, the story becomes annoyingly predictable and loses all the momentum it had. So, just lower your expectations and you should be fine.
First of all, the atmosphere remains alien and desolate despite all of this. Especially for those of us who love movies taking place on distant planets. Secondly, the visual quality is quite good for an indie production of this caliber. The cast gave excellent performances, especially Liev Schreiber who carried this fucking movie on his broad shoulders. Elias Koteas and Olivia Williams were also quite good. It’s not their fault that the script was mediocre.
The Last Days on Mars is based on the short story “The Animators” by Sydney J. Bounds. This perhaps explains why the plot feels so thin and yet brimming with potential. At least there was a lot of action and the pacing was quite good covering up some of the missed opportunities. It reminded me of an eighties classic Moontrap, a movie that opted for a different, all-in approach. And I also must mention the Spanish indie movie Stranded offering a more atmospheric setting.
It is the year of our lord Bradbury 2040 and humanity now has permanent bases on Mars, The Red Planet. One of these bases is Tantalus where the crew is finally about to finish their shift and go back to Earth. They only have nineteen hours left but a lot of things can happen in those nineteen hours. And it all starts with a faulty sensor one of the astronauts decides to fix before they leave…
The movie opens with a lonely rover slowly coming back to the base, a classic “space escapism” scene. I do find it exhilarating that there are not one but two rovers currently deployed on Mars. Curiosity and Perseverance are their names and they even have Twitter accounts. Perseverance ran into some trouble this weekend to quote: “Over the weekend, I collected my 14th rock core, but I was unable to seal the sample tube. The sample is stored safely inside my caching assembly, but some work remains to figure out how to cap and seal the tube. #SamplingMars”
I just can’t get over how juicy and ominous the first part of this movie was. Like they are going home in 19 hours and you just keep waiting for the proverbial shit to hit the fan. With a running time of just over ninety minutes, The Last Days on Mars is a solid snack that will get you in the “Mars mood”. With that being said, you might continue your Mars movie night with Doom, Ghosts of Mars, and Red Planet.
Director: Ruairi Robinson
Writers: Sydney J. Bounds, Clive Dawson
Cast: Liev Schreiber, Elias Koteas, Romola Garai, Olivia Williams, Johnny Harris, Goran Kostic
Fun Facts: The exterior scenes were filmed in Jordan and the entire budget of the movie was $10 million.