It's always nice when you have something in common with someone, particularly when said someone is actually a pair of filmmaking brothers who like you, share a fascination with viral plagues and apocalypses.
Hey, David and Alex Pastor...wanna meet up for nachos while we're at it?
Several years ago, I fell in love with a little film called Carriers. It wasn't a masterpiece, but it took the pretty popular world-in-peril trope and managed to successfully explore it from a different angle. The Last Days is the Pastor brothers' followup, also about a plague but of a very different tone and sort.
Quick Plot: Marc is a computer programmer struggling to keep his corporate job before an outside resources rep can ax him. At home, his girlfriend Julia longs to start a family, much to the total terror of Marc. His troubles get a little more complicated as the world succumbs to a mysterious disease that renders human into agoraphobes who can't breathe in open spaces. Within a few months, anyone who steps outside falls prey to a seizure-like condition that turns terminal in minutes.
Trapped inside his high rise office building, Marc longs to venture outside to be reunited with Julia, whom he last saw angry at him and on her way to work at a shopping mall. He soon discovers Enrique--the same corporate warrior who almost terminated him when the world had other concerns--has a GPS that might be the only way to navigate the city through underground subways and sewers. The pair reluctantly team up to venture deep into Barcelona, occasionally battling violent scavengers, warring survivors, and, well, bears.
You know how to make anything better? Add a bear.
Between Carriers and The Last Days, the Pastor brothers (who write and direct) demonstrate strong skills behind the camera. More importantly, the team seems to have a genuinely unique viewpoint and interest in exploring common tales (plagues, post-apocalyptic survival) from different perspectives. The plot of The Last Days isn’t that new, but the fact that the story is far more concerned with showing Marc’s progression from cubicle monkey with 21st century doubts to survivor helping to mold the next generation is what ultimately makes this such an involving film.
For a good stretch of The Last Days, I found myself annoyed at the lack of thematic foresight. Yes, the characters playfully discuss what might have caused the strain, but it almost felt as if 'agoraphobic plague' was simply a cool idea that wasn't going to be given any actual weight. It's really not until the final act that the film reveals what it's about, and I ultimately found that far more rewarding and powerful than if it had been hammered at us from the start
There are a few leaps of logic and happy coincidences that might feel a little too sweet for what seems to start as a gritty tale of the apocalypse
As if we didn't already know this: it always pays to start stocking your apocalypse shelter, both at home and the office
Know your underground urban geography. Love your underground urban geography
Never forget: just when it all gets quiet and peaceful, BEARS
While I wasn't quite as impressed with The Last Days as I was with the out-of-nowhere Carriers, I still found this film to be quite good. The Pastor brothers clearly have excellent (and more importantly, interesting) instincts when it comes to filmmaking. Unlike Greg McLean's now-dull obsession with his Wolf Creek style, I'd be more than happy if David & Alex Pastor remained in the realm of the apocalypse, especially if they continued to explore it through different concepts and tones.