The Last Days on Mars (2013)
(15) Running time: 98 minutes
Director: Ruairi Robinson
Writers: Sydney J. Bounds, Clive Dawson
Cast: Liev Schreiber, Elias Koteas, Romola Garai, Olivia Williams, Johnny Harris
Reviewed by Matt Wavish
Ruairi Robinson’s feature length debut, The Last Days on Mars, arrived almost unnoticed in UK cinemas, and even though the films trailer was incredibly impressive, and the cast fairly decent, the sci-fi horror did not do well. I would have thought that many, like myself, would have been excited by the well presented trailer, and while the film was never going to be the next Event Horizon, Alien or even 2012’s ambitious Prometheus, The Last Days on Mars initially had a lot of potential.
Set on Mars, the film see’s a group of astronauts and scientists about to prepare for their well deserved journey home, until one of them spots a life form on the Red Planet, hides it from the rest of the crew, and secretly goes to investigate. Taking a trusted friend with him, he uncovers the life from, and the discovery brings with it a horrific virus which turns those infected into literal zombies. A neat idea, and being set on Mars gives the film some weight, and add to this a cast of genre actors who fit the bill perfectly for this type of film, The Last Days on Mars should have delivered.
Sadly, here is yet another Mars based film that can quite break out of the mediocre, and what should have been a really great sci-fi horror, becomes a seen-it-all-before slog that quickly loses momentum, and sadly becomes almost entirely forgettable.
I say almost because there are plenty of positives here: the special effects for such a low budget film are astonishing, and Robinson shows skills here that proves that he is indeed a director to watch. His camera work inside the space compound is clearly from a director with a clear admiration of the sci-fi horror genre. There are nods to all the classics like Alien, Event Horizon, Sunshine and even The Thing, so fans of this sort of stuff will certainly find plenty to enjoy here. The horror comes very quick, and some scenes are quite nasty, with a fair amount of bloodshed for gorehounds. Some of the tense moments are built up quite nicely, with Robinson using near perfect timing to deliver obvious shocks with skill and attention to detail. Seeing these zombie-like creatures running rampant in the compound is unsettling, while the thought of one character crawling through an underground tunnel (a like-for-like copy of Aliens) is chilling.
One of the films strongest and most suspenseful scenes involves a dead person, and a bed sheet to cover them up. Will they or won’t they start moving?
Robinson’s careful build up of suspense almost works, but it’s as if he just isn’t quite there yet as a master of the craft, which can be forgiven considering it is his debut feature film. What can’t be forgiven is some awful scripting, which is often delivered by some hideous acting that really should have been picked up on while filming. It was as if Robinson was more concerned with his style, and his need to pay homage to all the classics, that he forgot to pay attention to his actors. Granted Liev Schreiber does an excellent job, and Elis Koteas has some of the films stand-out scenes, but the rest of the cast really stuggle at times. Lines are delivered with little, or no clarity, and dialogu becomes so badly written you will not know whether to laugh, or simply shake your head in disbelief. However, the script is not the films biggest flaw.
It is hard to complain about a film which on the surface appears to be doing everything right, but The Last Days on Mars just becomes a repetitive, un-eventful and quite boring film which offers absolutely nothing new to the well established genre. The opening ten minutes are without music, heavy on character, dialogue and visuals, and it can be excused as being a cool set-up for the film, the calm before the storm so to speak. Sadly things never really get off the ground, and after a high point involving the first realisation that things are going wrong, the film steadily gets worse. There is no urgency, very little tension and The Last Days on Mars moulds into one great big mess that plods, and never really seems to want to rush anywhere. No urgency, and a serious case of déjà-vu from other films you have seen, result in the latest Mars based film being yet another disaster.
Lots of potential, plenty of ideas and some cool designs and impressive special effects sadly give way to a rather dull sci-fi horror that possibly might find a home on DVD and Blu-ray. However, there are some positives, and Robinson is absolutely a director to watch in the future.