I do so love a good Apocalypse. No, it isn’t only the visuals. No, it isn’t only the inevitable fall of man. What makes an Apocalypse worth viewing – so far as I’m concerned – is the central focus on good, believable human characters. Whether the end of mankind is caused by a nuclear war or some planet-smashing asteroid or even some biologic concoction the story still has to be populated with people an audience can care about. That’s something so many creative folks tend to leave out as they grow more and more distracted in trying to amp up their visuals … when all you need is a John and a Sally and a little kid or a wayward stray dog to give the story its emotional foundation.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging: “Marc has been trapped inside his Barcelona office for three months. Outside, the world has plunged into chaos following the outbreak of a fatal type agoraphobia known as The Panic, which kills anyone who ventures outdoors. Desperate to tunnel out in order to try to find his girlfriend, Marc makes a tense alliance with Enrique, a coworker who has a rare, functioning GPS. Equipped with only minimal supplies and a desperate need to escape, the two embark on a journey through the lawless, hostile subway tunnels and sewers in search of their loved ones.”
Though some might disagree, what works best about THE LAST DAYS is the balance on human characters at its heart. Marc (as played by Quim Gutierrez) isn’t anything special; he’s just an average man – one who appears to be destined to be fired for his inability to get his company’s latest firewall to properly work. The last time he saw his lovely girlfriend Julia (Marta Etura), he snapped at her because of the stress he’s feeling. He could be the guy riding next to you on the bus or the train, or he could be the guy sitting in the cubicle right around the corner from you.
Similarly, Enrique (Jose Coronado) is the run-on-the-mill Human Resources representative. He’s smartly dressed. He’s the consummate professional. However, he does have a reputation – one definitely earned – of being a bit heartless as one of his central tasks is to fire employees who are underperforming. No one wants to be called into his office. No one wants to share a meal at his table. His is a dark, foreboding presence – one that spells corporate doom – putting him in the position to be avoided like the plague.
What happens when a real plague hits the planet?
Marc and Enrique quickly become the unlikeliest allies, thrown together out of the dire condition of their circumstances. While their professional relationship was built on the premise of slightly misinforming one another, their personal ‘working friendship’ starts out much the same. Once they discover how far the world outside has slipped into lawless chaos, they’re forced to set aside those differences – however unpleasant that may be to them personally – in order to work together at accomplishing what steps must be taken to reunite them with their respective families.
The writing/director team of Alex and David Pastor have crafted an impressive film exploring what could be the most unlikely end of days to have come along since 2011’s equally sublime PERFECT SENSE … except this one doesn’t end up as dire as that. Hoisted onto the shoulders of its everyman characters, THE LAST DAYS never loses sight of the human faces stuck into every frame: they’re all a bit stressed, and they’re all necessarily grayed from the dirt and dust of their everyday lives, but their eyes are always focused, concerned, and full of life itself. Also, their script effectively toys with how contemporary medicine seems to have lost the ability to succinctly define what’s ailing civilization (the curiously named ‘The Panic’ is never given an origin, nor is one necessarily needed for the purposes of the tale) much less offer up anything by way of a cure. Instead, the sufferers are left to realize that science can’t even begin to understand why present-day man medically rejects his environment. All that matters is that he does … and, now, mankind will have to figure out how to live with itself once again.
THE LAST DAYS (2013) is produced by Morena Films, Antena 3 Films, Rebelion Terrestre, and a host of other partners (you can see a complete list at IMDB.com if you’re interested). DVD distribution is being handled by MPI Media Group under the IFC Midnight label. For those needing it spelled out perfectly, this is a Spanish-spoken-language film with English subtitles available. (There is no English-dubbed track.) As for the technical specifications? This is one smartly shot film with the highest quality sights and sounds accompanying. Lastly, if you’re looking for special features, then get ready for the shock: there aren’t any, save for the theatrical trailer. A big disappointment.
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION POSSIBLE. If you like Apocalypse-themed films even half-as-much as I do, then you’ll probably find yourself pretty darn excited over what goes down in THE LAST DAYS. Granted, not all questions are answered – sometimes, half the fun to appreciating the end times is trying to figure out precisely what went wrong – but that’s a small quip to overlook when you’re treated up to stories this intelligently conceived and visually inspired.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at MPI Media Group provided me with a DVD copy of THE LAST DAYS by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.