Monday, November 11, 2013

The Last Days On Mars (2013)(Spoiler Review)

**This review contains spoilers**

After six long months, a research team’s mission on Mars is coming to a close. Led by Captain Charles Brunel (Elias Koteas), Vincent Campbell (Liev Schreiber), Kim Uldrich (Olivia Williams), Robert Irwin (Johnny Harris), Rebecca Lane (Romola Garai), Marko Petrovic (Goran Kostic), Richard Harrington (Tom Cullen), and Lauren Dalby (Yusra Warsama) put the finishing touches on their experiments and expeditions.

But Marko complicates the peaceful farewell with a shocking discovery. Marko pinpoints the location of a living organism, but Marko doesn’t share his discovery with the rest of the team. Instead, Marko trusts the secret with Harrington and nobody else. With Harrington’s help, Marko embraks on a covert mission to retrieve samples from the living organism, so he can bask in the glory of being the man, who discovered life on Mars. Marko is a few steps away from the rover, but an opening crack in the ground sinks Marko into a seemingly bottomless pit.

Captain Brunel takes the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of his crew, but Marko’s discovery jeopardizes the entire mission. Marko unknowingly unleashed a deadly and contagious virus. The virus mutates any living human into a vicious zombie, and the crew is running out of time and resources, as zombified crew members wreak havoc on Mars. The calamity escalates into a deadly game of cat and mouse, while Vincent struggles to block out memories from a tragic accident on a space station. With Vincent leading the way, the remaining uninfected crew members devise an escape plan, but Vincent and the others are forced to come up with a new strategy, when the zombies invade their sealed stronghold…….

It’s hard to keep track of all the Mars sci-fi/horror films now a days. Although, you can tug on the audience’s “This could actually happen!” thought process by using Mars as a setting. You have to think about the select few in the audience, who believe in the risks and danger of exploring the unknown, and the consequences of discovering  life on an another planet. Sure, there’s a chance we have neighbors in the Solar System, but there’s a good chance they’re not friendly and likeable aliens, who have a curious desire to bond with us, and learn the human way of life. Maybe they’re mapping out a strategy to take over? It’s something to think about.

Anyway, The Last Days on Mars won’t set the world on fire, but there’s enough suspense to hold your attention. After the zombie attacks kicked into high gear, I was hooked into the never-ending life or death struggle. The gory and bloody stuff is kept to a minimum here, and The Last Days On Mars doesn’t rely on extreme levels of nastiness to pull a reaction out of you. It’s a refreshing approach, and I didn’t have a big problem with the PG-13 rating.

But The Last Days On Mars isn’t free of problems. For starters, you’ll quickly notice some unlikable characters here. Kim is a disruptive and cold-hearted jerk, Dalby is a fussy tattletale, and as the story progresses, Irwin turns into that one guy, who stabs everyone in else in the back, so he can save his own skin. And of course, you have the overly dramatic and corny moments with a victim trying to fight the inevitable zombie transformation. Towards the end, Rebecca realizes she won’t make it after suffering an infection, but Vincent refuses to give up on her. Rebecca eventually turns, and she commits suicide by removing her helmet on the surface of Mars. Then, a zombified Rebecca tries to attack and kill Vincent, so Vincent is forced into a mercy killing. Yeah, I’ve seen this scenario in SO many other zombie films. For me, It’s a tiresome and clichéd formula, so I couldn’t feel the heartbreak during Rebecca’s demise.

Although, I have to admit, I was on the edge of my seat during the finale. So Rebecca is dead (again) after the mercy killing from Vincent, and Vincent is struggling to make it to the rendezvous point with a rover that’s running low on battery power. The rescue ship arrives, but the rescue crew is decimated by a horde of attacking zombies. An infected Irwin tries to take off for Earth, and Irwin is able to fly the ship into outer space, but Vincent murders him during a fight. During the struggle, Vincent suffered a stab wound to the face, so Vincent is worried about a possible infection. Vincent doesn’t have enough fuel to reach a refill space station, so Vincent warns the space station on Earth about the virus with a time delayed message before the screen fades to black.

It’s a tense series of events. Who’s going to win the fight? Will Irwin make it back to Earth, and spread the infection? Or will Vincent initiate a self-destruct sequence on the ship to eradicate the virus?  I was pulling for Vincent to make it, because he was on a short list of selfless heroes in The Last Days On Mars. Plus, fading the screen to black, as Vincent helplessly floats away in space was a nice touch for a cliffhanger, because nothing is 100% clear. You’re not sure if Vincent is alive, infected, or if someone on Earth listened to his pleas for help. And who knows, maybe another zombie sneaked on to the ship, when Vincent wasn’t paying attention?

The Last Days On Mars features some familiar clichés and head shaking moments, but it’s not a terrible film. The cast is rock solid with some noteworthy performances from Liev Schreiber and Romola Garai, and the well-executed and suspenseful finale is so fun to watch. Bottom line, The Last Days On Mars is a satisfying and effective sci-fi/horror film, that’s capable of holding your attention for one hour and thirty-one minutes.

Rating: 6/10

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