The Last Days on Mars
An intelligent and engaging sci-fi thriller with strong performances and, oh yes, space zombies
Based on a 1975 short story ('The Animators') by pulp sci-fi author Sydney J Bounds, The Last Days on Mars is directed by Ruairi Robinson and stars Liev Schreiber, Romola Garai, Johnny Harris and Olivia Williams as members of a team of astronaut explorers who are entering the final day of a six month mission on the surface of Mars. With 19 hours to go and tempers fraying among the crew, one of the scientists (Goran Kostic as Marko) believes he's discovered evidence of fossilised bacteria and heads out on an unauthorised mission to confirm his findings. However, when Marko is killed in a fall, he's exposed to the bacteria and re-animated as a deadly space zombie, who begins attacking and infecting the remaining crew members.
With a bleak aesthetic that recalls Duncan Jones' Moon, the film looks gorgeous throughout, courtesy of some impressive location work (the exteriors were filmed in Jordan) and characteristically stunning cinematography from Robbie Ryan – an opening shot of an encroaching dust storm set to a 1930s song (Jack Hylton's 'Blue Skies Are Around The Corner') is a jaw-dropping early highlight.
The plot is essentially that of The Thing or Alien, with a downbeat, tetchy, paranoid quality that works well – you get the feeling this particular crew would have attacked each other anyway, space zombies or no space zombies. Similarly, the cast are uniformly excellent (Johnny Harris is especially good as shifty psychological welfare officer Irwin) and their interaction feels real, particularly the touching bond between Schreiber and Garai's characters.
Ultimately, The Last Days On Mars isn't without flaws (the zombies are left offscreen too long and some of the action sequence editing is confusing), but this is an intelligent and engaging sci-fi thriller that's well worth checking out. Also, did we mention the space zombies?
General release from Fri 11 Apr.