Wednesday, January 26, 2022

THE LAST DAYS ON MARS (2013) Movie Review

The Last Days on Mars (2013) d. Ruairi Robinson (UK/Ireland) (98 min)

Astronaut Vincent Campbell (Liev Schreiber) and his international crew are in the final hours of their exploratory mission on the Red Planet and are just getting ready to head for home when one of their number goes out to check one final outpost reading which seems to have revealed a bacterial presence. In other words, Life. Unfortunately, the bacteria has a field day with the human biosystem and basically transforms anyone it encounters into a raving background player from 28 Days Later.

I barely remember hearing anything about The Last Days on Mars when it was released a little over eight years ago, which is perhaps not surprising since it boasts recognizable names (Schreiber, Olivia Williams, and Elias Koteas) as its headliners who aren’t necessarily “stars” and doesn’t seem to have generated a lot of critical love from those who even noticed it had shown up in theaters. However, upon encountering it firsthand, I was genuinely surprised that no one seems to talk about it at all; it’s a quite entertaining and atmospheric effort even if the synopsis basically boils down to “Zombies on Mars.”

Adapting acclaimed sci-fi writer Sydney J. Bounds’ 1975 short story “The Animators,” Clive Dawson (who also provided the script for 2001’s underrated WWII ghost story The Bunker) chooses to deliberately keep things ambiguous with regard to the origins and intentions of the microorganism in question, as well as the fate of certain characters.

It’s a brave choice that will probably frustrate a certain percentage of viewers, but as it’s clearly intentional as opposed to careless or lazy, I found it yet another intriguing element in a strong and worthwhile effort. (Dawson’s account of how the project morphed and changed over the years can be found HERE.) 

The cinematography by Robbie Ryan (Oscar-nominated five years later for his work on Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite) imbues production designer Jon Henson’s (Overlord) clinical interiors and desolate exteriors with equal measures of beauty and terrifying isolation, and Max Richter's score is haunting and moody without resorting to the usual jump-scare stings.

While nothing revolutionary, it’s an engaging slice of sci-fi horror (which represents Robinson’s sole feature directorial effort to date) with solid performances from all involved on both sides of the camera.



  1. I'm not even sure if I ever actually saw this one. I feel a martian theme week coming along soon (as I was also never brave enough to watch the standard sci-fi of Red Planet either, in slightly related fare).

    1. I always confused Red Planet with Mission to Mars (since they both came out in 2000 and I wasn't keen to see either of them). I finally got around to MtM a couple years back when I was getting to all the De Palmas and it was ABSOLUTELY not worth the wait. (You can tell it was just DP wanting to play around in the Disney tent.) I'll get around to Red Planet at some point, I'm sure.

      This one, as you read, was definitely in the 7/10 field. Don't think you'll be disappointed.