August 22, 2013

Los Últimos Días (2013)

"2013. A mysterious epidemic spreads across the planet. Humanity develops an irrational fear of open spaces that causes instant death. Soon, the world population is trapped inside buildings."

It's taken me almost a week to get through this Spanish sci-fi adventure, but don't let that put you off because it's not a bad one! For a number of reasons in real life including the heat and babysitting someone else's three cats, I just couldn't get into this movie as much as I wanted to.

Having finished it only a few minutes ago, I don't think we have a classic here, but "Los Últimos Días" (which you don't need to be an Einstein to translate as "The Last Days") is another competent apocalyptic fantasy from David and Àlex Pastor. As a similarly themed but totally unrelated follow-up to "Carriers" (2009), the generic plot is, once again, more concerned with separations and reunions than anything too cerebral, although if you like this subgenre as much as I do, you'll be pleased with it overall.

Starring Quim Gutiérrez (yes, that really is his name!) as Marc Delgado, and José Coronado from "The Body" (2012) as Enrique his companion, "Los Últimos Días" is nicely acted but very reminiscent of "The Happening" (2008) at times. With no reason given (but some ecological ones suggested along the way) for why the world's human population has started to drop dead from agoraphobia, our heroes' quest isn't for answers or a cure however, but mainly to reunite Marc with his girlfriend Julia.

Rather than being sci-fi per se, the story is set in the present and plays out as a kind of one-sided ancient Greek novel with various problems for the protagonists to overcome. Despite frequent flashbacks, the focus is on the male-bonding between Marc and Enrique in ways which shamelessly homage "The Edge" (1997) while being completely different in intention. I'm not going to spoil it for you, but one scene and its aftermath is a very recognisable borrowing.

To offset the clichéd sausagefest, female eyecandy is mostly provided by gorgeous Marta Etura from "Sleep Tight" (2011) as Julia. Unfortunately, she has very little screen time compared to the importance of her character. To compensate, the two or three fans of "[REC]³ Génesis" (2012) will be pleased to see Leticia Dolera as Julia's friend Andrea, especially as she briefly gets to kick ass again!

Beards are very popular in Spain.

The rest of the cast is comprised of Spanish TV actors (mostly from soaps and miniseries) which is de rigueur with these Barcelona-based productions. Spain is now as guilty of overusing their limited supply of actors and actresses as much as Australia, but I'm willing to let that slide. I've recently become very biased in favour of Spanish movies due to their consistently beautiful cinematography and solid characterisation which makes everything in modern American movies look cheap, soulless and amateur.

As most of the claustrophic action takes place in tunnels, sewers, and stairwells, the balance between unrealistic sources of light and being too dark to see what's going on is handled perfectly. There's none of the Zippo lighter being able to illuminate a whole room nonsense here, and bless them, our heroes even mention that trope and find an inventive way around it! There's not a great deal of humour, but there's a lot of such wittiness in the dialogue if you're open to it.

The make-up/wardrobe crew are also to be congratulated for making Marc and Enrique look progressively and realistically filthier. That's the thing here though; there's so much realism that the ridiculousness of their situation can almost be forgotten. Further attention to detail in the set dressing certainly helps to make everything more epic, and it's only a couple of CGI-enhanced views of the city outside which ever give away the modest, non-Hollywood budget.

Inevitably, for all of its good points, "Los Últimos Días" is still not without a few lapses in logic and some blatant contrivances, but it's very easy to willingly suspend your disbelief and just enjoy the ride. Thus, I have no problem with recommending "Los Últimos Días" as a rental or even a purchase once it gets an official US release. At the moment, the only version available is an overpriced Blu-ray import, so you may want to wait for a while.

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