Today: June 16, 2024

The Last Days

Similarities predictably abound between this and José Saramago‘s Blindnessitself adapted into a film directed by City of God director Fernando Meirelles in 2008. Here however, it is an unseen and free-flowing infection that promotes severe agoraphobia in its victims rather than Saramago’s loss-of-sight, but the potency of the allegory remains as pertinent. As the successful modus operandi of these kind of post-apocalyptic narrative-unfoldings go, the story nimbly hops back and forth between the ravaged wasteland metropolitan life has become now, and the humdrum mundanity of life before, when isolated news stories on the TV ominously hinted at the pandemic just around the corner.

Gutiérrez, a kind of neo-Gael Garcia, plays Marc, a programmer fighting to deliver code on time, with the threat of redundancy from top brass Enrique (Coronado) ever looming. But once the lights go out and humankind burrows underground to avoid the coruscating sunlight that illuminates the streets above, Marc and Enrique begin a cross-town trek via subways and sewers in order to reach their loved ones. There are shades of Shyamalan‘s calamitous The Happening too in the way the deadly plague is hinted as emanating from Gaia (the outbreak is preceded by casual news stories of multiple volcanic eruptions that are spreading ash worldwide), but Los Ultimos Días (The Last Days) blithely eschews a deeper dissection of humanity (in the way Meirelles’ Blindness managed, for example), in favour of a series of poorly conceived Playstation-like objectives and chapters. All this feels frustratingly like a missed opportunity, as the cleanly rendered VFX and comprehensively detailed production design belie the film’s modest €5.5m budget, and there’s a soulful (yet intrusive) and lush symphonic score from The Orphanage composer Fernando Velázquez.

Yet one can’t help feeling that Pastor’s film is jumping on an increasingly laden and creaking bandwagon of similarly-themed end-of-days fiction, and that fresh life isn’t simply breathed into a flagging genre just by swapping the carrier-nature or point-of-origin of virulent outbreaks. Then in the film’s closing moments, just as you are considering returning a verdict of heroic defeat, Los Ultimos Días tacks on an overtly new-age, Lord of The Flies-style coda that dispenses with any logical credibility built up over the preceding ninety minutes. For a satisfying and robust fill of apocalyptic storytelling, complete with a finale that’ll leave you reeling for days try engaging with PlayStation and Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us instead.

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