CANNES, France -- "The Last Days on Mars," one of the most commercial films up for grabs in Cannes' official sections, made a strong impression when it screened as part of the Quinzaine des Realisateurs, or Directors Fortnight, on Monday afternoon.
One of the rare science-fiction films to have partial funding from the Irish Film Board, this is the debut feature for Los Angeles-based Irish filmmaker Ruairi Robinson.
Set during the last 19 hours of the first manned mission to Mars, "Last Days" stars Liev Schrieber, Elias Koteas, Romola Garai and Olivia Williams as crew members clearly getting on each others' nerves as the clock winds down.
Well-written by Clive Dawson in a plot initially reminiscent of Ridley Scott's "Prometheus," a crew member discovers a form of bacterial life on the planet and makes the mistake of thinking of taking it back to Earth. The bacterium, however, turns out to have the nasty habit of turning crew members into grotesque and violent zombies (are there any other kind?).
The story may be familiar, but the way Robinson has directed it is undeniably gripping. "Mars" is a nifty genre exercise, a lean, muscular and fast-moving B picture that shows that science-fiction smartly done on a budget can hold its own with anything.