Thursday, July 31, 2014

Stream the apocalypse, Spanish style, in Àlex and David Pastor's gripping, moving THE LAST DAYS

Whatever else THE LAST DAYS (Los últimos días) may be -- and mostly, it's a smart and relatively original (thank god, there are no zombies roaming about) vision of humanity's future, once an odd and sudden plague of agoraphobia occurs worldwide, proving fatal to those who venture out of doors -- this apocalyptic thriller, in its final few minutes, becomes so unbearably moving and beautiful that I swear you'll have seen little like it. For this alone, the movie rates as an instant must-see.

The filmmakers, brothers from Barcelona, are Àlex and David Pastor (shown above, with Àlex at left), and a few years back they gave us the darker and somewhat better movie, Carriers, yet another film about a humanity-deadening plague. Just as does their new one, that earlier movie dealt with the price of trying to remain human and caring amidst what appears to be an end-of-the-world scenario.

For this important theme alone -- one that most apocalypse-now moviemakers are happy to avoid -- The Last Days is worth a look. But there is more going on here, as well. The film is actually a love story of two men, and though their love is not initially toward each other, they come to this by movie's end.

One of them, Marc (played by that handsome, gap-toothed Spanish everyman, Quim Gutiérrez, above, who's just about everywhere these days), loves and will do anything to find his girlfriend, Julia (Marta Etura, shown at bottom left), who's been holding back a certain important bit of information from Marc. The other fellow, Enrique (played by that fine actor José Coronado, below) is also desperate to reach a family member, more of whom we learn as the movie progresses.

In this new circumstance, in which everyone remains indoors, the two must work together to find a way to reach their loved ones via subways and sewers, rather than step out into the open air and die. (Before all news media are cut off, we hear scientists and others arguing about the possible cause of this condition: Is it mass hysteria or something in the dust from certain suddenly active volcanoes?

We never know, but it take watching only one frightened and hysterical man, having been fired and now being evicted from his office space into what would normally be a perfectly benign sidewalk area, to realize how "real" this threat actually is.

The visuals here range from rather standard apocalyptic stuff to the quite striking (above). The movie's single most exciting scene takes place in a cathedral, below, where a certain uninvited guest has arrived, with a bit more on his mind than mere prayer.

The movie initially moves from past to present, as we learn how all this has occurred. Eventually we're only in the daunting present -- until that amazing finale. This becomes a little ten-minute story unto itself, in which quiet style, splendid visuals, a just-right musical score and very few words takes us a decade or more onwards into the kind of blessed place that the makers of Hollywood blockbusters -- with all their money and special effects -- only wish they could create.

If the movie itself is never achieves the perfection of its finale, neither could the ending work so well without all we've seen previously that has led up to it. The Last Days --  from IFC Midnight, running 100 minutes and in Spanish with English subtitles -- is screening now via Netflix streaming and elsewhere. Under any criteria, I'd have to call this one a don't-miss movie.

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