7 out of 10 UK/Ireland Co-Production

Release Date: 11th April 2014

Director: Ruairi Robinson

Cast: Liev Shreiber, Romala Garai, Elias Koteas, Johnny Harris, Tom Cullen, Yusra Warsama with Goran Kostic and Olivia Williams

Writer: Clive Dawson


TLDOM-coverTo be proofread: Last Days On Mars is stylishly mounted sci-fi horror-thriller. The plot is a well-established ‘who’s next’ model, but the whole film is advanced with an intelligent script and very good cast of international (but mainly British actors) taking their jobs very seriously. This sci-fi has no time for brevity or wise cracked one-liners – it’s pure business.  Not since Sunshine has the UK produced a ‘men on mission into space encounter a deadly anomaly’ movie. Sunshine derailed with the late introduction of a psycho-slasher. Last Days Of Mars has no such overweight twists to bend it out of shape. Last Days Of Mars is dependable if not original, but it’s all expertly done – the tension is built nicely and it has enough scary moments in it to earn it’s place in the space horror canon. Debut feature director Ruairi Robinson‘s Last Days On Mars features a team of eight astronauts who are looking for signs of organic life. On the last day before their shift goes off rotation, on of the two scientific officers, Marco (GORAN KOSTIC – TAKEN) makes a discovery. It turns out to be a highly contagious organism that seeks moisture at any cost, taking command of it’s human host in deadly fashion. One of the only places on Mars to find liquid is inside the survivors bodies and at their HQ. A fight for survival begins. The cast is made up with talented character actors such as Liev Shreiber (THE BUTLER), Romola Garai (MATCH POINT), Elias Koteas (THE THIN RED LINE) and up and coming Downton Abbey star Tom Cullen (WEEKEND).  The stand out is the angry, irresponsible nightmare Kim (OLIVIA WILLIAMS – SABOTAGE). Before the sh*t rapidly hits the fan, each character is established economically but with care. As their numbers get whittled down it’s hard to predict who’ll be next to get infected.  More than one of the deaths is heart-wrenching, as victims slowly lose their memory, fighting off the organism swarming through their veins. Faces and names of children washed away.  It’s got a nice side-plot about how Shreiber’s mission engineer Campbell suffers from acute claustrophobia and also how an astronaut can pass psyche tests on earth and get on-mission but it’s not until their truly at the edge that they’ll realise how well they cope. Ironically, it’s the mission psychiatrist who suffers most, Irwin (JOHNNY HARRIS – HUGE). Overall it’s an enjoyably, sturdy horror that punches below it’s weight as it’s essentially a very well-produced zombie film set in space.  It’s as if Waitrose or John Lewis had decided to make a horror film. It’s quite posh in a way. Still, it’s very good and worth giving a quite evening too. It’s not a life changer but we don’t need event movies every day, or do we? It’s the best movie set on Mars yet, leaving Hollywood efforts like John Carter, Mission to Mars or Red Planet in the dirt, easily.

7 out of 10 – Solid entertainment. A posh horror! In space! In space no one can hear you exclaim that your Ocado delivery man bought the wrong kind of Magnums….

REVIEW BELOW by Joe Pesci II aka known to HMP Broadmoor as Matt Usher


  • Liev Shreiber: Faded Gigolo, The Butler, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Movie 43, Mental, Goon, Salt, Repo Men, Taking Woodstock, X Men- Wolverine, Defiance, Love In The Time Of Cholera, The Painted Veil, The Omen (2006), The Manchurian Candiate (2005), Everything Is Illuminated (dir), The Sum Of All Fears, Kate & Leopold, Scream 3, Hamlet (2000), The Hurricane, Jakob the Liar, Sphere, Twlight, Scream 2, Scream, Ransom, The Big Night, Walking and Talking, The Daytrippers, Denise Calls Up, Mixed Nuts
  • Romola Garai: Junkhearts, One Day, Glorious 39, Atonement, As You Like It (2006), Match Point, Dirty Dancing 2, Inside I’m Dancing, Nicholas Nickleby (2002), I Capture The Castle
  • Elias Koteas: Devil’s Knot, Now You See Me, Harold and Kumar 3, Let Me In, Dream House, Shutter Island, The Killer Inside Me, The Curious Incident of Benjamin Button, The Fourth Kind, The Haunting in Connecticut, Two Lovers, Zodiac, Shooter, Skinwalkers (2007), S1m0ne, Ararat, Collateral Damage, Novocaine, Lost Souls, Thin Red Line, Apt Pupil, Fallen, Gattaca, Crash (1996), The Prophecy, Camilla, Exotica, Cyborg 2, Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles 3, Chain of Desire, The Adjuster, Almost An Angel, Look Who’s Talking 2, Desperate Hours, Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles (1990), Blood Red, Tucker, Some Kind of Wonderful
  • Johnny Harris: Fortitude (TV), Monsters 2, Welcome To The Punch, Snow White & The Huntsman, Huge, This Is England 88 (TV), This Is England 86 (TV), Black Death, Dorian Gray, London To Brighton
  • Tom Cullen: Blakc Mountain Poets, Desert Dancer, Downton Abbey (TV), Weekend
  • Yusra Warsama: My Brother The Devil
  • Goran Kostic: In The Land Of Blood and Honey, The Crew, Taken, Hannibal Rising
  • Olivia Williams: Man Up, The Haunting of Radcliffe House, The Seventh Son, Map of the Stars, Sabotage, Now Is Good Anna Karenina (2012), Wild Bill (2012),  Sex & Drugs & Rock-n-Roll, The Ghost, Hanna, An Education, X-Men III, To Kill A King, Below, The Heart Of Me, The Sixth Sense, Born Romantic, Rushmore, The Postman

One thought on “LAST DAYS ON MARS

  1. Review by Matt Usher aka Zombie Knockers

    Some of those young film-makers gleefully splattering screens with excessively repugnant buckets of blood and guts might learn something if they glanced at THE LAST DAYS ON MARS. Obviously no-one at the really cheap end of the film-world wants to make tasteful zombie films, but this one could teach the whippersnappers a thing or two about how to pace a film, build character (some characters anyway: some of them seemingly get sucked into Space Death within seconds of appearing on screen), and how to make a film look good. It’s a very shiny (but not too shiny) film, which rolls along pleasantly, looking efficient and sparkling, like a well-kept kitchen (which is a lovely change from all those rough-round-the-edges homemade zombie-or-hooligenre films) and which makes Mars look like quite an attractive destination for a day-trip.

    THE LAST DAYS ON MARS is based on ‘The Animators’, a short story by Sydney J. Bounds. I’ve not read it (and was unaware of Mr Bounds) but perhaps someone in the Doctor Who production office did. How else to explain the similarity between this film and the Doctor Who special The Waters of Mars (2009)? Both are base-under-siege stories featuring early missions to Mars falling prey to Space Zombies agitated by a virus. The main difference is that in the TV show our Gallifreyan hero turns up and (eventually) saves the day (sort of). But in the grim wastes of British movieland there is no hero. Except maybe Liev Schreiber.

    So THE LAST DAYS ON MARS is basically a look at how humanity might cope if it stumbles across something nasty on another planet and there are no beneficent aliens to lend a hand. And the answer is: not particularly well.

    This film doesn’t hang about doing boring stuff like introducing characters patiently or going into details about the mission’s purpose (presumably the multi-national nature of the cast directly represents the multinational nature of the film’s funding rather than accurately predicting which countries will be sending out manned interplanetary missions, seeing as it seems to be a Candian/UK/Polish endeavour). They’re the second Earth mission to Mars (though being second-best doesn’t explain why they’re such a dysfunctional unit), and by the time the film starts they’re already packing to leave having failed to get whatever it was they were hoping to find. But at the very last moment, by a bit of serendipity (or at least by falling down a hole) one of them finds something worth writing home about. Alas it’s a killer-zombie-making space virus. Before you know it our band of ill-assorted love-crossed bickering astronauts / team of highly professional space scientists (delete depending on prejudice) are being picked off one by one both by the Space Zombies and through their own Space Paranoia. There’s a disappointingly predictable ending (which although pessimistic includes an irritating beacon of optimism).

    Our fractious and mostly doomed team are led by ineffectual boss Elias Koteas (memo to next mission: never put a Canadian in charge, no-one takes notice of Canadians). The crew comprises Olivia Williams as the thwarted ambitious one (why does she never get proper leading roles?), Goran Kostic (the maverick who doesn’t

    play by the rules), Liev Schreiber (heroic one with nasty dose of Space Claustrophobia), Romola Garai (boring one – fancies Schreiber), Johnny Harris (awkward one), Tom Cullen (boring bearded one), and Yusra Warsama (another boring one – quite sweet on Kostic). Some of the characters are quite fun, and no-one is completely trustworthy (not even Hero Astronaut Liev (that man must hate autocorrect)), but you won’t get too attached to them as they exist purely to become space lunch (maybe that’s the film’s message: we’re just part of the food-chain?). and, yes, they do sometimes seem a bit stupider than you’d expect, but that’s the nature of this sort of film.

    As for what the metaphor is (and there must be one – it’s both a zombie and a sci-fi film) I’m not sure: it’s probably something like we all need to work together or we’ve had it. Or maybe don’t go where you’re not wanted. Or take precautions when you go abroad. One of them.

    In truth this is little more than one of about 5000 remakes of And Then There Were None but with virus-riddled Space Zombies from Mars (who would have thought that that Agatha Christie whodunit would turn out to be the book with the greatest influence on modern cinema?). It’s the title which is symptomatic of the film’s main problem. It’s overly serious, portentous and doomy (and inaccurate – it should’ve been THE LAST COUPLE OF HOURS ON MARS). And although there are some serious things in the story, it’s not really a serious film, it’s just pretending. It’s primarily a film about plot and shocks (rather than for example isolation, exploration, international co-operation, dealing with extreme disaster, all of which are themes that are in the film but only insofar as they feed the plot). So SPACE ZOMBIES FROM MARS would have been more honest and more fun. Instead the film is ridiculously tasteful and quaint (it’s so well-behaved it even has a Max Richter score). It’s extremely well made but in an anonymous sort of way. It’s as if the film-makers didn’t want to offend anyone; the sort of film you might be able to show to a moderately nervous viewer without risking total psychological breakdown. Gore fans will be hugely disappointed, the film making most of its impact through things which are just out of focus, or just off-screen. There are a few decent shock moments, there’s a lot of excellent acting (rare in zombie films), and the characterisations are mostly well thought-out (though the idea that this lot are the second-best possible explorers of Mars is a bit depressing). But this isn’t as powerful, clever or insightful as I think it thinks it is. It’s an above-average but very polite space zombie film (the space zombies even knock before entering), a space zombie film for Downton Abbey fans.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s