DIRECTOR: Ruairi Robinson

CAST: Liev Schreiber, Elias Koteas, Romola Garai, Olivia Williams




With each new discovery of Nasa’s Curiosity rover, which recently found evidence that Mars once had lakes with potentially drinkable water, it’s an exciting time to ponder what else might have been – or could be – on the Red Planet.

The Last Days on Mars seems like it could deliver such thought-provoking goods – at least until the plot devolves into a version of Zombies in Outer Space.

The sci-fi thriller follows a small band of scientists and engineers preparing to leave Mars after a six-month stint trawling the desert for signs of life. It seems their mission has been for naught and that they will return to Earth empty-handed, except that a rogue scientist harbours a secret. He may have stumbled upon an ancient bacteria, but he needs to go back into the field to validate his findings.

To do this, he’ll have to break protocol, and the boilerplate set-up tells us that because he is the least recognisable member of the cast, he may not be long for this world. But his fate isn’t as lamentable as that of the audience, which is about to get stuck with a particularly serious strain of zombie apocalypse.

There are moments at the start of Ruairi Robinson’s feature-length directorial debut that seem promising, if by the numbers.

There is spectacular footage of dust storms and an eerie strings-heavy soundtrack that creates an effective atmosphere of doom.

The Last Days on Mars was never going to be Gravity, but it looked like it could aspire to be something in the vein of this year’s similarly themed and highly enjoyable found footage flick, Europa Report.

Yet the movie is plagued with flaws, not the least of which is that the main protagonists, chief systems engineer Vincent Campbell (Liev Schreiber) and biologist Rebecca Lane (Romola Garai), are forgettable.

While Campbell has a couple of quirks – who goes into outer space if he has issues with claustrophobia? – he offers little for the audience to latch on to.

Schreiber, with his flat intonation and subtle expressions, has the staid thing down, and he can deliver an impressive dramatic performance. But he doesn’t transmit personality or charisma, which is exactly what The Last Days on Mars needs, especially when it turns into more of an action movie.

There is much to be said about the utter ridiculousness of the villains in the movie, but it doesn’t seem right to give too much away. So I’ll keep it simple: the zombies aren’t scary. After the early scenes, which feel serious, even understated, the walking dead theme seems strained and silly.

It’s ironic that while the plot unfolds in the most predictable fashion, it’s difficult to see what’s happening. Between the dark or dusty shots and the hyper-quick cutting, some of the action is nearly impossible to discern. But maybe that shouldn’t matter since all of The Last Days on Mars feels like it’s been done before. – Washington Post

If you liked After Earth or Hell you will like this.