Re:View – ‘The Last Days’
Another day, another stonking Spanish-made genre movie – this time from the Pastor brothers, who gave us the equally apocalyptic ‘Carriers’. More concerned with psychological effects than gore and spectacle, the film nevertheless looks fantastic. It’s set in two time-frames, the present (after the unspecified event that destroyed the world) and just before it happened. We follow a pair of office workers as they go about their days in both times, approaching the disjunct as the two timelines converge to reveal who or what it was that ended civilisation – and what those who remain can do about it.
A large glass office building in Barcelona holds a number of survivors who’ve been holed up there for weeks, and the quest is to find loved ones, places of safety, food and shelter – but the problem of doing so stems from the survivors themselves, who have been affected by The Event. What it could be, how it works and why it might spell the end of days is what counts here, along with trying to find a way that the human race can survive.
There’s a refreshing avoidance of the usual ‘roving gangs who are out to kill you’ scenario, which always seems to play out like a survivalist’s wet dream; instead, ordinary frightened people are trying to help themselves and each other, although they’re naturally wary of strangers at first. And – here’s a twist – there’s no real foe to fight in the traditional sense. So a Hollywood remake is unlikely.
Although it plays out like a much calmer version of ‘The Omega Man’, there are some excellent set-pieces, including a battle with a bear in a church (!) which makes perfect sense when you know that Barcelona’s zoo is right there in the downtown area, but there’s also plenty of food for thought about the future, and how life might find a way of working around a seemingly insurmountable problem. At first the concept (which I won’t reveal here) seemed far-fetched, but becomes more believable the more you think about it. There’s no demonisation of any individual group, and no resort to boring gunplay. Rather, we follow the increasingly desperate plight of the leads as they try to trace a father and a pregnant girlfriend in different parts of town.
There’s no easy solution but there is hope, albeit of a long-term nature, which suggests the world heals itself at the expense of the affected generation, rather as AIDS was to the eighties. Some have found the ending a little rushed, but to me it seemed organic and logical. Those looking for exploding heads should go elsewhere. I found ‘The Last Days’ a refreshing change of pace for an Armageddon movie – and yes, full of suspense.
In what I’ve increasingly come to suspect is a Hollywood conspiracy to ensure that world movies bomb, IMDb gives away a major reveal in the opening line of its synopsis (as they did with the electrifying ‘The Hidden Face’) so you might want to avoid that.