The Last Days on Mars Review – Expect a Hypodermic Dose of Fright

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“The Last Days on Mars,” from Magnet Releasing and Focus Features, presents a Red Planet sci-fi thriller filled with heightened suspense and stark fright pitting the hunted against the hunter in the ultimate battle of survival.

Directed by Ruairí Robinson, “The Last Days on Mars,” stars Liev Schreiber, Romola Garai, Olivia Williams, Johnny Harris, Goran Kostic, Tom Cullen, Yusra Warsama and Elias Koteas. “The Last Days on Mars,” is adapted from the 1976 short story from Sydney J. Bounds, The Animators and adapted for the screen by Clive Dawson.

We meet Captain of Tantalus Base, Charles Brunel, played by Zodiac’s Elias Koteas as he is once again listening to Kim Aldrich played by Olivia Williams, a defiant and determined scientist, who lives for the mission explain why she should be given second dig privileges.

With one day before the shuttle arrives to dispatch a new crew to the Mars station, end this tour of duty and take this crew back to earth, all are a bit antsy and having short-termer jitters.

The crew as typical with a group of super intellectuals has little camaraderie and plenty of determination, circumventing, backbiting and general disrespect for each other.

When we meet, Vincent, played by Liev Schrieber, and Rebecca Lane played by Romala Garai are in the Mars rover waiting for Kim to finish sample gathering discussing what, if anything they will miss when the mission is complete.

As they return to base, within minutes they learn the likelihood of “only the most important geological find in human history” has been found by Marko, played by Goran Kostic, after he hid scientific data from the entire crew. They all understand, if it is realized they are only capturing the data for further review under the leadership of the next captain and crew. The prize once again slips away.

After giving permission to return to the excavation site, Marko and Richard, played by Tom Cullen, are quickly ordered to return to base.  Suddenly the ground gives way and swallows, the unharnessed, Marko. The death causes serious repercussions among the team members.

Attending to the search and recovery, the team is dispatch on orders of the Capitan to various duties, Vincent, reluctantly repels to the depth of the sinkhole to find the evidence of life, plant growth, but no body. The discovery, in and of itself on any other day would be an earth shattering find, on this day, 19 hours before his TOD on Mars is up, it only brings trepidation.  

Something is alive on Mars and quite possibly spreads a porous poison.

His colleague, Marko, is missing, and is likely exposed to elements which appear to be radioactive; it is unclear if his mind and body will be functioning. Severe and unprecedented casualty is expected.

The next sixteen hours become a terrifying race against time and an unknown and formidable challenger housed in the bodies of the crew members as the contamination spreads through any encounter.

“The Last Days on Mars,” is a sci-fi thriller with a stellar cast which would lend itself to the conclusion that one can expect to keep a scorecard as to who one would expect to be killed off and in what order.

Fortunately that is not the case with “The Last Days on Mars” and the audience should expect the unexpected.

Visually “The Last Days on Mars,” I believe, offers the most realistic depiction of the Mars surface, the film’s exterior scenes of the Mars landscape, was shot in the desert of Jordan.

Robinson, a former VFX man, also worked on many of the special effects, including the digital face replacements, seen in the film. As he describes the opportunity to direct "The Last Days on Mars" it was "an alien monster movie so I had the chance to mash two genres."

The ensemble cast across the board gave truthful performances especially as they played super intellectuals faced with a mysterious and petrifying contagion with only a single thought.

“The Last Days on Mars,” provides plenty of suspense and is packed with anxiety and apprehension. Like every good alien thriller, “The Last Days on Mars,” supplies a hypodermic dose of fright, as the alien infection is unknown and contamination levels are erratic and unpredictable.  

“The Last Days on Mars,” is playing in select European cities and opens in the U.S December 6, 2013.


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