The Last Days on Mars

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The Last Days on Mars
Last Days on Mars Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Ruairí Robinson
Produced by
Screenplay by Clive Dawson
Based on "The Animators" 
by Sydney J. Bounds
Music by Max Richter
Cinematography Robbie Ryan
Edited by Peter Lambert
Distributed by
Release dates
  • 20 May 2013 (2013-05-20) (Cannes)
  • 19 September 2013 (2013-09-19) (United Kingdom)
  • 6 December 2013 (2013-12-06) (United States)
  • 11 April 2014 (2014-04-11) (Ireland)
Running time 98 minutes
  • Ireland
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
Language English
Box office $24,084 (US)[1]

The Last Days on Mars is a 2013 science fiction-horror film directed by Ruairí Robinson with a screenplay by Clive Dawson, based on the short story "The Animators" by Sydney J. Bounds. It was screened in the Directors' Fortnight section at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.[2] The film received a limited release on 19 September 2013 in the United Kingdom and 6 December 2013 in the United States. It stars Liev Schreiber, Elias Koteas, Romola Garai, Goran Kostić, Johnny Harris, Tom Cullen, Yusra Warsama, and Olivia Williams.[3]


In the 2040s, a professional Martian research base, Tantalus Base outpost, is created. The eight person crew, who have been stationed there for six months, are only nineteen hours from the completion of their research mission. The spacecraft Aurora is inbound from Earth and will collect the team by lander from a prearranged site. Mars scientist Marko Petrović has found samples that may point to life on the planet. Without revealing his discovery, he devises a ruse for one last sojourn on the surface. Crewmate Richard Harrington drives Petrović in a solar powered rover to the spot where he had found the sample. After he obtains soil with the biological agent present, a fissure swallows Petrović.

Captain Charles Brunel and crewmate Lauren Dalby plan to explore the pit to retrieve Marko's body. Dalby remains at the pit but disappears before the team can return with equipment. Brunel authorizes Vincent Campbell to explore the pit, and he finds a fungus-like life that grows in the fissure. Dalby and Marko reappear at the main outpost, but the Martian biological agent mutates them into fast, aggressive, zombie-like creatures with blackened skin and no trace of their original personalities. Harrington dies from a power drill attack and turns into one of them. The remaining crew hold off the zombies while Brunel and Campbell return. Brunel is fatally injured and reanimates, which provides the crew with new insight into the symptoms: thirst, memory loss, and aggression.

The bulk of the movie's middle section is taken up with fights and escapes from the zombies through the habitat modules. Eventually, mission psychologist Robert Irwin deliberately leaves scientist Kim Aldrich, who had often infuriated her crewmates, to die. Rebecca Lane is also injured during the frantic escape to a rover. With their rover's power low, the survivors – Campbell, Irwin, and Lane – decide they must get to the other rover, which is at the landing site. Under the pretense of a scouting operation, Irwin steals the second rover and unsuccessfully attempts to persuade Campbell to abandon Lane, who he states is infected. Irwin meanwhile conceals evidence of his own possible infection.

While Campbell and Lane wait for the sun to rise and the solar powered batteries to recharge, they discuss the nature of the zombies, and Lane questions whether any human consciousness remains trapped in the zombies. Campbell attempts to comfort her and falls asleep. When he wakes up alone, Campbell realizes that Lane has fled into the desert, and he chases after her. Lane, who knows she is likely to turn, unsuccessfully attempts to deter Campbell from following her and, in desperation, commits suicide by removing her helmet. After she dies, Lane reanimates and begs Campbell to destroy her. Campbell reluctantly complies.

Campbell and Irwin separately converge on the Aurora lander, where the reanimated Aldrich kills the lander's crew. The other zombies appear desiccated and inert. A clearly infected Irwin initiates a launch, which takes him and Campbell into orbit. Campbell kills Irwin and ejects the body and virulent blood droplets into the vacuum of space. In a message to mission control, Campbell says he does not have enough fuel for a rendezvous, but supplies aboard can last for months if they want to launch a rescue. He argues that this may not be advisable, as he may be infected. The movie ends before he gets a reply.



Filming mainly took place in Jordan.[4]

The visual effects for The Last Days on Mars were done by Screen Scene VFX in Ireland. Influences include Paul Greengrass, Michael Mann, and Sergio Leone; Robinson wanted to make a paranoid thriller reminiscent of Alien.[5]


Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 16% of 43 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review, and the average rating was 4.7/10; the site's consensus is: "Neither intelligent enough to work as thought-provoking sci-fi nor trashy enough to provide B-movie thrills, The Last Days on Mars proves as cinematically barren as the titular planet."[6] Metacritic rated it 46/100 based on 10 reviews.[7] Justin Chang of Variety called it a "murkily derivative sci-fi-horror entry that basically amounts to Red Planet of the Dead."[8] Stephen Holden of The New York Times called it "good on atmospherics but unimaginatively plotted".[9] David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter called it atmospheric and gripping but "unapologetically derivative".[10] Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "Lean, muscular and on the money, The Last Days on Mars takes a familiar story and tells it so tautly that we are pleased to be on board."[11]


  1. ^ "The Last Days on Mars (2013)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 5 April 2014. 
  2. ^ "List of films in Cannes Directors' Fortnight". Cannes Film Festival. 23 April 2013. Retrieved 24 May 2013. 
  3. ^ Tilly, Chris (19 July 2012). "First Look: Last Days on Mars". IGN. Retrieved 18 March 2013. 
  4. ^ Lodderhose, Diana (2012-05-18). "Prescience forges new funding joint venture". Variety. Retrieved 2014-04-03. 
  5. ^ Cooper, Sarah (2012-07-19). "Last Days On Mars". Screen Daily. Retrieved 2014-04-03. 
  6. ^ "The Last Days On Mars (2013)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2014-04-03. 
  7. ^ "The Last Days on Mars". Metacritic. Retrieved 2014-04-03. 
  8. ^ Chang, Justin (2013-05-20). "Cannes Film Review: ‘The Last Days on Mars’". Variety. Retrieved 2014-04-03. 
  9. ^ Holden, Stephen (2013-12-05). "Mars Mission Is Uneventful Till the Undead Feel Unwell". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-04-03. 
  10. ^ Rooney, David (2013-05-21). "The Last Days on Mars: Cannes Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2014-04-03. 
  11. ^ Turan, Kenneth (2013-12-05). "Review: 'The Last Days on Mars' shows space exploration's scary side". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2014-04-03. 

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