JDIFF Review – The Last Days on Mars

When collecting specimens on Mars, a group of astronauts – in their final hours on the planet – succumb to a deadly and horrifying force.

Part zombie horror, part psychological thriller and part space opera, The Last Days on Mars combines elements from all of the great space movies of our times – including Alien, 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Thing – and combines them with elements of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express to create something other, but something that is not quite new either.

The cast is made up of Olivia Williams, Romola Garai, Liev Schreiber, Johnny Harris and Elias Koteas. Each of them does perfectly well with what they are given, and fit into the typical and familiar stereotypes; bitch, love interest, everyman etc… That is not to say that the actors are not good in their performances, it’s just that we have seen this all before.

Written for the screen by Clive Dawson, The Last Days on Mars is based on a short story by Sydney J. Bounds. The film is well scripted with strong dialogue and some good action sequences, but there are so many space/horror/zombie movie tropes used throughout that The Last Days on Mars becomes utterly predictable. No one escapes from the fact that it is easy to see where the film is headed, and takes us there with hardly any surprises along the way.

Director Ruairi Robinson was Oscar nominated for his work on the 2002 short film Fifty Percent Grey, and worked on the visual effects for Breakfast on Pluto and Disco Pigs; The Last Days on Mars is his first feature length film. Robinson directs capably for the most part, but it is clear that he is so inspired by the great space and alien movies that his work quickly turns to imitation, rather than homage. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but it leaves The Last Days on Mars an entertaining film, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that we have seen this all before.

The Last Days on Mars is a solid space opera/zombie thriller. Writer Clive Dawson and director Ruairi Robinson don’t do anything we haven’t seen before – in fact it is, at times, hard to shake the feeling that we’ve already watched this film… Haven’t we? – leaving The Last Days on Mars entertaining enough, but uninspired and uninspiring.

Rating: 2.5/5

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