Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Yikes -- Martian zombies! Ruairi Robinson's "B" movie in space, THE LAST DAYS ON MARS

More satisfying, if more conventional, than the recent exploration-of-life-on-other-planets-themed Europa Report, the new sci-fi/horror/thriller THE LAST DAYS ON MARS is a fast-moving genre jumper that eventually morphs into, yes, a zombie movie. If you follow this blog at all, you'll know that TrustMovies is not particularly keen on the zombie genre. That said, this new one, directed by first-time/full-length filmmaker Ruairi Robinson (shown below) and written by Clive Dawson (from a short story by Sydney J. Bounds), proves pretty much worth your time and interest.

Despite all the genre jumping done by Last Days On Mars (LDOM), I'd call the real genre of this entertaining film an old-fashioned "B" movie -- PushoverThe Killer Is Loose and Invasion of the Body Snatchers come immediately to mind -- and it should recall  those tight, smart, low-budget genre films that usually did their job well without nearly all the fuss-and-muss of the big-deal studio films. LDOM is, like the old "B"s, well-written, -directed and-acted. Mr. Robinson proves especially good at making everything from the sets to the dialog appear real in a mostly low-key manner -- except for the gorgeous and scary Martian sandstorm that begins the film and becomes (unless you're particularly fond of zombie make-up) the film's highlight in terms of special effects. The dialog, in particular -- thanks Mr. Dawson and the acting crew -- has the ring of real behavior to it.

With an international cast led by the exceedingly butch and no-nonsense Liev Schreiber (above), an actor who, throughout his whole career, has specialized in "real," the actors -- initially loose and playful -- rise quickly, as does the movie itself, to the occasion of a life-and-death situation.

From Bosnian-born Goran Kostic, as the initial loose-screw in the opera-tion as this crew prepares to leave Mars for good, to the always capable Olivia Williams (above) as the bitchy crew member (for good reason, as it turns out), the international cast of this British/Irish co-production delivers a raft of good performances that prove exactly what is needed.

The lovely Romola Garai (above, of The Crimson Petal and the White) is always space-suited here but proves up to her usual level, while Elias Koteas (at left, below, with Tom Cullen) lends a nice air of authority tinged with vulnerability to his role.

I call this a zombie movie, and indeed I believe it really is. What makes it different from the rest in this genre is how these particular zombies are initialized and then evolve. There's no rising from the dead here; in fact, it is almost the reverse.

That we actually begin to understand how these "things" were created is also a nice change for this genre, and we don't seem to spend half the movie on this subject, either, in the manner done by World War Z -- which, again, shows up the difference between the "B" movie and its overkill A-list counterpart.

At 98 minutes, LDOM is still around 10 minutes too long. Consequently its "thriller" aspect grows attenuated--but not enough to sink the (space)ship. This is a generally tight tale well told. The movie, from Magnolia Pictures/Magnet Releasing, complete with both Universal Pictures and Focus Features screen grabs, open this Friday, December 6, theatrically in New York City (Landmark's Sunshine Cinema) and Los Angeles (Landmark's NuArt in West L.A.). Additional theaters in some thirteen cities will be added in the weeks to come. Click here to see 'em all.

Note; this film is also currently available via most VOD outlets. 
Check your own TV reception provider to details.

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