Where are you going to be at the end of the world? While that statement has taken on a more loaded nature of late, it’s a frequent question, one that even supposes humanity will even be around when our poor, neglected planet decides it’s time to say goodbye. Sounds like a stretch to me.
However, the central concept behind Romain Quirot’s science fiction picture The Last Journey (Le Dernier Voyage) is that indeed. Based on his 2015 short film The Last Voyage of the Enigmatic Paul WR, Quirot’s film tells of a mysterious planetary body that suddenly appears in our solar system: a red moon. This moon changes everything, mainly allowing for a new power source called Lumina to transform human technology, including the classic trope of allowing cars to fly.
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Despite this, the moon has suddenly advanced on the Earth and is about to kill everyone on it. The only person who can stop this is Paul WR (Hugo Becker), son of the scientist who discovered the moon, Henri (Jean Reno). Paul apparently has a genetic disposition that allows him to penetrate the force field that surrounds the moon, but on the eve of his mission, he gets cold feet and disappears.
After buying a hover-Peugeot, Paul sets out across the desolate landscape the world has become, with machines strewn everywhere and a serious rain drought – Quirot has obviously watched all of the Mad Max films. While looking for a replacement Lumina battery for the car, he comes across a shop where he meets the young Elma (Lya Oussadit-Lessert) who eventually joins him on his journey. However, the authorities are in hot pursuit, as well as Paul’s brother Eliott (Paul Hamy), who tried to go to the moon in Paul’s place and instead suffered a mishap that has left him somewhat psychotic. But Paul is insistent on reaching a place that he’s seen before, a beautiful forest that he only has a childhood drawing of.
The Last Journey is an enigmatic film; perhaps too enigmatic. It’s a picture where the ambition and the intent often rise above the sometimes rote way it’s presented, but it struggles often to make it past the tropes. I mean, it’s a road movie in a hovercar, and even the road movie conventions show up often. It often feels fairly repetitive, with several scenes where Paul and Elma have to get past the police checkpoints, with the police here being robotic-looking soldiers dressed in black like futuristic bounty hunters. There are the moments where the pair have to stop for rest or what have you, which of course is an excuse for exposition or character development, including a moment where they visit a roadside diner, which turns into a fight scene when one of the cops tries to accost Paul.
Luckily, the enigma that is Paul, and the reason why he ran away in the first place, keeps the interest going. There are a number of flashbacks to Paul and Eliott’s life as children, where their mother died of an unmentioned illness, which affected Paul greatly. And we learn of estrangement of sorts between Paul and his father, who disturbingly put Paul on medication after the child tried to come up with a solution for the red moon. These moments of connective tissue help provide a solid emotional undercurrent for the film, although like so much of it, they are underdeveloped.
Everything feels like it’s kept deliberately vague, which is perhaps understandable in a film that undoubtedly wants you to come to its own conclusions, but it means the audience often doesn’t have a clear vision of what is happening. The landscape of France – the film opens with a destroyed Eiffel tower laying on its side – is like a desert, but we’re never told whether it’s due to the red moon’s effects or if it’s because of some other catastrophe. Eliott has an almost alien presence after returning from his mission, complete with eyes that turn black, but that’s never investigated further, and his abnormal and violent behaviour feels like it’s set up for a fight rather than anything else.
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Hugo Becker and Lya Oussadit-Lessert work together well and have good chemistry, but again you can’t help feel it needed more development. Reno barely appears in the film, but always gives it authority when he does, while Hamy gives perhaps the best performance, with a creepy quirk with his extraterrestrial schtick. The film looks good, the sound design is excellent, and it has an interesting ending that is refreshingly played much more subtly than we’re used to from similar Hollywood fare.
The Last Journey is an interesting film for sure, even if it struggles to escape from the myriad genre conventions it gets mired in. The vagueness and seeming unwillingness to go deeper into some of the more crucial aspects hurts it, but at a snappy 87 minutes, it’s fairly breezy. Hopefully, the end of our world will be the same.
The Last Journey is out now on DVD and Digital from Altitude.