Review

Review

FEARNET Movie Review: 'The Last Days'

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Lately we've seen cinematic apocalypses from a wide array of intelligent people: the Spanish import The Returned dealt with zombies in a low-key and tragic fashion; Soderbergh's Contagion went with the biological angle; Alfonso Cuaron imagined a newly sterile world in Children of Men; and you can probably guess what happens to half the world in Fernando Meirelles' underrated Blindness from a few years back.

 
Feel free to add another very interesting Spanish import to the "erudite apocalypse" sub-genre: David and Alex Pastor's The Last Days poses an odd question: what if people started to simply fear the outdoors? "Fear" is putting it lightly. The Last Days blows way past simple agoraphobia; this is more like a virus that strikes if you go outside, and it simply fries your brain. 
 
The epidemic starts casually enough: a few bizarre deaths hit the news, and then our hero notices that one of his co-workers hasn't left the office in days -- and just as Marc (Quim Gutierrez) starts to put the puzzle together, his pregnant girlfriend goes missing. And then society crumbles.
 
The Pastor brothers' screenplay is a very clever blend of science fiction, adventure quest, and horror story, but it's also rather crafty in the way it combines its main story (Marc on a desperate underground trek to locate his beloved) with the essential "character moments" and plot exposition. Editor Marti Roca also deserves high praise for the film's confident balance between the main "genre" story and the romantic/dramatic moments that raise the stakes immeasurably.
 
Gutierrez provides a hero worth pulling for, but it's his traveling partner who steals the most scenes: Jose Coronado plays a gruff and difficult "corporate axe-man" who joins Marc on his subterranean quest and turns out to be a very tough, handy, and oddly charming ally. The duo spend much of the film burrowing through the subway tunnels, sub-basements, and forgotten caverns beneath Barcelona, which allows the Pastors to fill their odd but fascinatingly dark adventure movie with some disconcertingly lovely images.
 
Taken a bit less seriously, or presented with a little less heart, The Last Days could easily devolve into something silly or (even worse) boring. Fortunately that's not the case. Supported by a foundation of simple heart, but loaded with all the cool stuff you'd want from a sci-fi / adventure / disaster story, The Last Days may not represent the flashiest apocalypse story you'll ever see, but there's always something to be said for clever storytelling, good acting, and novel apocalypse tales.
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