THE LAST DAYS ON MARS
Suspenseful and Thrilling, But Rather Pagan
Starring: Liev Schreiber, Elias Koteas,
Romola Garai, Olivia Williams,
Johnny Harris, Goran Costic,
Tom Cullen, Yusra Warsama
Audience: Older teenagers and adults
Runtime: 91 minutes
Distributor: Magnet Releasing/Magnolia
Director: Ruairi Robinson
Executive Producer: Malcolm Ritchie, Tim Smith,
Producer: Andrea Cornwell
Writer: Clive Dawson
Address Comments To:Bill Banowski, CEO, Magnolia Pictures (Magnet Releasing)
1614 West 5th St.
Austin, TX 78703
Eamon Bowles, President, Magnolia Pictures (Magnet Releasing)
43 West 27th St., 7th Floor
New York, NY 10001
Phone: (212) 924-6701; Fax: (212) 924-6742
Website: www.magpictures.com; Email: info@ magpictures.com
THE LAST DAYS ON MARS takes place during the final 19 hours of a six-month expedition to Mars to search for and collect biological samples. Leading the group is astronauts Vince Campbell (Liev Schreiber) and Charles Brunel (Elias Koteas) and consists of eight highly-trained crew members.
One of the scientists, Kim (Olivia Williams), discovers microbial boring bacterial cells in the cavities of a few rock samples they’ve discovered. While attempting to gather more samples, another of the scientists, Marko (Goran Kostic) is swallowed into a hole in the ground, prompting Lauren (Yusra Warsama) to go after him, against the wishes of the crew, who presume him dead. When neither Marko nor Lauren return, the crew begins to worry. Eventually, Marko and Lauren return to the base, although they are humanoid and zombie-like, having been infected by a bacterial virus. These creatures attack the crewmembers and kill one, Harrington (Tom Cullen), who in turn becomes one of the creatures.
The crew leader, Brunel, is stabbed by one of the creatures and himself becomes infected with the bacterial virus. He slowly dies as he lays on a table, as the crew’s scientists trying injecting him with antibiotic fluids to counteract the virus. The antibiotic works for a while, but the virus develops a resistance. Realizing the virus can’t be stopped, the surviving crew desperately tries to find a way to contact mission control and escape.
After five of the eight crewpeople have been killed or infected with the virus, the remaining three (Campbell, Irwin, and Laine) race against the creatures, who are intelligent enough to follow their tracks and destroy their equipment. Irwin (Johnny Harris), crumbles under the weight of the situation, at times breaking into tears. He proves to be unstable and eventually deserts Campbell and Laine.
Campbell and Laine venture onward alone in hopes of securing communication with mission control and being rescued, pushed to the limits of human survival.
THE LAST DAYS ON MARS is a simple, formulaic sci-fi thriller with a predictable but well-executed plot and terrific acting. The writing is tight and moves along well. The biological and scientific details of the crew’s mission should prove interesting to some, and the rich cinematography and environments are satisfying to watch. For a movie without a large budget, it was executed and delivered very effectively.
THE LAST DAYS ON MARS doesn’t do much in terms of character development, and this was perhaps its weakest element. It contains a few elements worthy of exploration (Campbell has several flashbacks to an experience on another spaceship that aren’t fully explained), but favors more peril and suspenseful moments. The potential for expounding on a few relational elements was there, including moments where one character asks the other about the afterlife and whether a zombie still has elements of personhood, but the movie’s budget likely wouldn’t allow much movie time beyond 90 minutes.
The foul language in LAST DAYS ON MARS is intense and relentless, and the violence is also jarring at moments. The creatures are frightening, even for an adult, and the movie creates tension throughout its running time.
However, the movie is devoid of any strong Christian or biblical elements. At one point, one character mockingly speaks about “finding God and writing a song about it” when discussing the prospect of finding life on Mars. In another instance, Laine asks Vince whether he thinks there’s an element of human existence that continues after death, but he deflects the question, saying, “That’s above my pay grade.” In the movie’s final minutes, Vince has a vision where he seems to communicate with Laine (who has died by this point) from beyond the grave, although the movie’s lack of a Christian worldview would lean one to believe this is simply a neo-pagan or occult element.
THE LAST DAYS ON MARS has a few pro-family elements. In one scene, as Brunel is moments from death, he speaks longingly in tears about wanting his family to know he loves them. In another, Irwin (also in tears) speaks of longing to see his family again. Several crewmembers make sacrifices and take risks to ensure each other’s safety.
The violence in THE LAST DAYS ON MARS is not gratuitous and ongoing, but there are a few gruesome scenes (a man being drilled in the stomach is the most intense). There is also a general mood of dread throughout and few truly redemptive aspects in the THE LAST DAYS ON MARS, which would not sit well with many viewers.
The movie’s excessive obscene language is its predominant negative element, with almost constant obscenity as the characters endure perilous situations. These elements of violence and language warrant excessive for THE LAST DAYS ON MARS.
THE LAST DAYS ON MARS is a well-executed, entertaining, intense science-fiction thriller with good writing, acting, and cinematography. The creatures are frightening, even for an adult, and the movie creates tension throughout its running time. However, LAST DAYS ON MARS doesn’t do much in terms of character development. This was perhaps its weakest element. Worse, the movie carries a loose, rather mixed, neo-pagan worldview with humanist elements. There’s also excessive foul language and some scenes of gruesome violence. The movie is also devoid of any solid Christian or Biblical themes or elements. That said, there are a couple pro-family moments and redemptive elements of self-sacrifice. THE LAST DAYS ON MARS isn’t for children of any age and slides over into the excessive.