“Do you think any part of us survives after death?
‘I don’t know. It’s a little bit above my pay grade'”
I wanted to like Ruairí Robinson’s 2013 The Last Days on Mars, I really did, but despite attracting an (inter)stellar cast (Romola Garai, Olivia Williams, Liev Schreiber) to its blend of science fiction and outright horror, it just didn’t work for me. It’s not quite intelligent enough to be a real chin scratcher but equally it isn’t schlocky enough to be trashy fun either, rather the film languishes in the rather dull terrain inbetween.
Set in the 2040s on a research base on the planet Mars, a research team is coming to the very end of their six month trip but a late discovery that they may have found some form of biological life throws a spanner in the works. Instead of preparing for the approaching spacecraft to take them home, one last mission goes out to get one last sample and naturally it goes wrong, with terrible consequences for all of the crew.
The beginning does seem promising, the eeriness of the setting and the dilemma of the discovery with what it could mean for humanity at large versus the personal demands it could ask of the team. But once it becomes clear where the story is going and that is ZOMBIESZZZOMGZ!, any pretence at subtlety or even narrative gets lost in the trashing of internal logic and the cheap shocks from picking them off one by one.
The cast sell it as best they can but the writing just isn’t that great. The crew are identified by single character notes – Williams’ caustic scientist, Schreiber’s conflicted captain, Garai’s, the one with a secret, the one with crippling cowardice, and so it’s quite hard to get invested in their fates. Not a film to search out, for my money.