The first I heard of Ruairi Johnson was from the the short movie “The Silent City,” which was awhile ago. At the time I though that he had a very interesting vision, kind of dark (I don’t mind nihilism, though a little goes a long way) and atmospheric. I didn’t hear of any projects from his since, so I moved on.
Imagine my surprise to learn that he directed “The Last Days On Mars.” It appeared on Netflix a week or so ago, so there was no way that I wasn’t going to watch it.
What first struck me about the movie was the cinematography by Robbie Ryan, which I enjoyed because he managed to create a believable Martian landscape without–as far as I could tell–overdoing it with filters and special effects. Objects also tended to first appear far from the camera lens, making them by extension appear smaller, and the landscape more desolate.
Kudos should also go out to Jon Henson, who was the production designer. He evokes a look reminiscent of Duncan Jones’ “Moon,” with most everything designed in a very clinical white. In fact, when the astronauts discover a bacterial life form that’s somehow able to infect the members of the survey team, it was actually a bit of a disappointment because the movie was interesting in a very realistic way till that point.
And by “bit of a disappointment” I don’t mean that it went downhill more than things got a lot more conventional–especially these days of “The Walking Dead,” “The Returned” and the upcoming “iZombie.”
What also surprised me was that “The Last Days On Mars” was an ambitious enough film to attract Liev Schrieber and Elias Koteas, two actors who I imagine aren’t exactly cheap.
Overall, ‘Mars’ was very well-made, though I think that I would have preferred if it were more similar to Antony Hoffman’s “Red Planet,” where the greatest enemy was not only man, but a homicidal robot they brought with them, as opposed to the typical zombie trope.