The Last Days On Mars review

Night of the living red planet

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It's a question even David Bowie couldn’t answer. Is there life on Mars? Well if Irish director Ruairí Robinson’s debut feature is anything to go by, there is indeed – and it ain’t pretty…

Nearing the end of a research mission to Mars, the crew of the Tantalus Base look set to return home empty-handed when science officer Petrovic (Goran Kostic) finds evidence of a new strain of bacteria on the surface. His field trip for a live sample doesn’t go quite as planned, forcing the captain (Elias Koteas) and his first officer (Liev Schreiber) to lead a rescue mission. Just who needs rescuing, however, is soon up for debate.

Playing like an indie Prometheus without the grand concept, TLDOM is a zombies-in-space movie that wears its influences on its sleeve. From Alien to The Thing via every claustrophobic sci-fi thriller and living-dead infection horror of note, no genre cliché is left unturned as, one-by-one, the Tantalus employees fall victim to the pathogen.

While the film’s derivative plot certainly doesn’t win any points for originality, Robinson’s solid direction (no doubt a talent to watch) ensures there’s at least a palpable sense of atmospheric tension – helped by the impressively ambitious production design and Max Richter’s eerily sombre score. There’s some effective stalk-and-slash/maim/eat sequences too, especially once the rabid, infected crewmembers force their way back into the Tantalus.

The multi-national ensemble cast – led by a suitably gruff Schreiber – are also game, with Olivia Williams’ tactless hard-ass and Johnny Harris’ snivelling survivalist managing to rise well above their stock-character limitations. Even they can’t overcome the film’s major stumbling block, though – you really have seen it all before.