The Last Days


Reviewed by: Rebecca Naughten

"A showcase for Spanish special effects and relatively slick genre cinema, but plot and characterisation required more attention."

A slick example of the genre cinema currently emanating from Spain, The Last Days utilises a reversal of normal horror rules - here it is daylight that is to be feared, rather than what lurks in the darkness. Ostensibly set a couple of months after a mysterious global epidemic has confined most of the population indoors, the first half of the film continually flashes back to the weeks preceding the mass outbreak of 'The Panic', when computer programmer Marc (Quim Gutiérrez) starts to link half-heard news reports with the odd behaviour of assorted neighbours and co-workers.

No real explanation is given for the outbreak and we don't witness the immediate aftermath of the event, so we are dropped into the middle of the action without much time for reflection - this works to the film's advantage, as plot holes become apparent if too much thought is applied.

Copy picture

Marc's quest begins when he and his colleagues finally break through the walls of their office block's subterranean car park onto the Barcelona metro line - they are now free to make their way around the city underground. Forming an uneasy alliance with corporate shark Enrique (Jose Coronado), the two men discover that their office block has been a pocket of isolated civilisation - once back with the general population, they quickly realise other humans are now another obstacle to be overcome and just as dangerous as the animals roaming Barcelona's abandoned streets.

The shots of an empty Barcelona have an eerie and disconcerting beauty but arguably the impact is blunted because of the increasing ubiquity of empty cityscapes in recent cinema. Unlike films such as Open Your Eyes (Abre los ojos) and 28 Days Later, in which it is the absence of human life that renders recognisably iconic urban spaces alien, The Last Days lacks the almost tangible realness deployed by those films and instead it is the CGI additions to the outside sequences (the smoke in particular) that cause an air of unreality and artificiality.

The film is more effective when it keeps the characters confined in clearly defined spaces (office block, metro station, church), although some of the underground locations are so cavernous, such as a sequence in a supermarket, that they lose the sense of claustrophobic airlessness that the film seems to otherwise be working so hard to generate.

The two male leads work well together, with Gutiérrez (better known for dramatic comedies) makes an amiable everyman and Coronado dependably good as the ruthless class act who hides his desperation behind an imperious attitude. However, other characters - such as Marta Etura as Marc's idealised girlfriend - are underwritten and come and go from the narrative without making much of an impression. Also, any film that fails to capitalise on Leticia Dolera wielding a shovel as a weapon - blink and you'll miss it - has wasted an opportunity.

A showcase for Spanish special effects and relatively slick genre cinema, but plot and characterisation required more attention.

Reviewed on: 14 Mar 2014
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A couple of months after an epidemic has rendered most of the world's population agoraphobic, and scared to actual death if they go outside, Marc heads underground to make his way across Barcelona in search of his girlfriend.

Director: Àlex Pastor, David Pastor

Writer: Àlex Pastor and David Pastor

Starring: Quim Guttierez, Jose Coronado, Marta Etura, Leticia Dolera

Year: 2013

Runtime: 101 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Spain

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