Apocalyptic visions can take many forms, from atomic to cosmic disaster, from cautionary tale to sardonic despair, comets, asteroids, plague. But when it comes to the end of the world, one expects fire or ice, bang or whim... more »per. Rarely does this genre focus on the area between those two extremes, as it does brilliantly in Don McKellar's Last Night, a wry tale exploring the effects of the world's imminent demise on a group of characters in Toronto. No panic ensues, no looting, no gnashing of teeth or elaborate schemes to forestall disaster. Well, that may be happening somewhere, but certainly not in Toronto. Here the radio counts down the top 500 hits of all time. The clock ticks by the evening hours while daylight fails to wane. Everywhere, people prepare for the end in ways that range from the mundane to the winsome. The principal action throws together Patrick (McKellar), a dejected young man who plans on spending the end alone listening to music, with Sandra (Sandra Oh), whose plans to spend the end with her husband (David Cronenberg) are thwarted by lack of transportation. Meanwhile, Patrick's friend Craig (Callum Keith Rennie) is fulfilling every sexual fantasy he's ever had. Love the one you're with is the message here. The real star is the tone of the picture, which is distanced and ironic and masterfully maintained throughout. Sarah Polley and Geneviève Bujold appear in supporting roles. It's the directorial debut of actor McKellar (Exotica, eXistenZ), who also scripted The Red Violin. --Jim Gay« less
"Most films dealing with apocalyptic themes, especially nowadays, likes to use a ton of flashy special effects and thundering soundtracks to convey the imminent demise of our planet. Fortunately for viewers who want something a little more thought provoking, other films about the end of the world occasionally slip through the cracks. One of these films is "Last Night," a chilling, low budget piece of cinema from Canada. "Last Night" doesn't have huge asteroids slamming into the planet, or killer plagues turning the human population into dust, but it does have heavy atmosphere and compelling performances from several actors and actresses you have probably never heard about. The movie even casts famous horror film director David Cronenberg in a major role. If you tire easily of the big Hollywood action/apocalypse films, turn to something like "Last Night" to get your Armageddon fix. About the only problem I had with "Last Night" concerned the play list on the radio station as it counted down the top 500 songs of all time. Personally, I didn't recognize very many of these tunes; I would have picked a few numbers that are more upbeat myself."Last Night" distressingly describes the last six hours of the last night the human race will ever see. Set in Toronto, Canada, the movie closely follows the final hours of several individuals, including a reclusive loner and his family, his best friend, an Asian woman desperately trying to reach her husband before the catastrophe arrives, an energy executive and his secretary, and a former high school French teacher. Perhaps surprisingly, most of these people sedately go about the last moments of their lives as though it isn't a big deal. The reason for this maddening calmness rests with the fact that the entire planet has known for some months that the end is coming, so most of the hysterical behavior you would expect to see has already worked itself out of most people's systems (Not everyone accepts their destiny. The streets are dangerous in places, with gangs going around tipping over buses or shooting and robbing people, but many people are staying at home quietly planning their final activities). What remains is a slightly sad resignation of the inescapable as each individual in the film goes about his or her personal business. Duncan, the energy executive played by Canadian director David Cronenberg, spends his last few hours calling all of his customers to promise them that the power will remain on until the bitter end. Patrick Wheeler, the main character of the film and the loner who wishes to spend his last moments of life alone, makes an appearance at a family Christmas party where some of his pent up bitterness about a life cut short seep out in vitriolic comments to his parents and sister. His friend resorts to playing sexual games, trying to sleep with as many women of different races and physical attributes as possible. One of the women he conquers is his former French teacher, played effectively by a still sexy Genevieve Bujold. Bujold's appearance marks one of the most absurdly comic moments of the film when she quizzes a confused Patrick on his French speaking skills. The best performance in "Last Night" comes from the remarkable and beautiful Sandra Oh, who plays the Asian woman looking for her husband. She soon comes into Patrick's orbit, and seeks his help so she can carry out a grisly pact she made with her spouse. Oh, perhaps better than anyone else in the film, truly conveys the utter helplessness of the unfolding situation.There seems to be some difficulty among viewers concerning what exactly will destroy the human race in this movie. I find this a bit odd because the ending gives a clear hint, and if that isn't enough, the fact that the sun still shines at midnight should provide a further clue. But what destroys the earth isn't as important as what the characters do regarding their impending fate, and that fate hangs over every action in the film like a black pall. Occasionally, the time flashes on the screen as the characters move another hour closer to doom, giving the whole film an incredible sense of claustrophobic tension. Arguably, the best line in the film comes from Patrick and his oversexed buddy, when Patrick says "See you later" and his friend replies without missing a beat, "No, you won't." Moments like these continually pull the viewer back into the unbearable agony of the film's central premise: There is no hope here, no magical hiding place in the mountains or under the sea where someone can avoid their fate. The ending is never in doubt in "Last Night."If I had to compare "Last Night" with another film or book, I would say that Nevil Shute's "On the Beach" closely resembles this film in its psychological exploration of an unavoidable apocalyptic disaster. I noticed I was quiet and reflective for some time after watching this film, always a good indication that a movie or a book touched me in some way. Regrettably, the DVD of "Last Night" is a bare bones edition. All you get on the disc is a theatrical trailer and the film. I think a commentary would have been nice, at the very least, but ultimately the movie succeeds without any further elaborations by the director or writers. Hopefully, this great movie will see a reissue on DVD soon."
Brilliant film, available in WS in Canada only
James Luckard | Los Angeles, CA | 09/29/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I love this film, but I'll avoid going into why, since everyone else has already described how great it is. The new Lions Gate American DVD is just a reissue of the old Universal DVD. They are both Pan & Scan (Boo! Hiss!)
Just recently, a widescreen version has finally become available. It is only available in Canada, and is released by Alliance Atlantis. Be careful, as there is an older Alliance Atlantis disc that is Pan & Scan, like the two American discs. You can get the new disc at amazon.ca, where the ASIN number for the widescreen disc is: B0002XGJSW
Note that it has no bonus features and is not anamorphically enhanced. Also, the image quality is no real improvement over the dull, washed out look of the existing discs. It also costs about twenty-five dollars plus shipping, nearly double the cost of the American disc. Widescreen, however, was certainly worth it for me."
The End As It Should Be
Jill Traynor | 04/02/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"No fire and brimstone, no biblical monsters, no masshysteria...not even a crazy old person screaming to all to save theirsouls. This is the story of the last night on earth. For the past few months the people of earth have known that the world would end at this midnight, obviously having something to do with the sun...which even at 11:59:59 shines as brightly as midday. Around the city of Toronto, a family sits down to Christmas dinner, though it is not Christmas. A man working for the gas company (David Cronenberg) calls everyone in Toronto to let them know that their gas will be on for as long as possible. His wife (Sandra Oh) desperately attempts to get home after her car is vandalized by looters. A man elsewhere in the city attempts every sexual fantasy he has ever considered. When another gentleman (McKellar, who also directed) who has every intention sitting home alone listening to music up until the end runs into Sandra, and they wind up spending their last hours together. There has never to my knowledge ever been a film like this one. No drama, no hysterics, this movie shows the world as it most likely really would end were we to be made aware of it a couple of months in advance. It makes you sit down and think for a moment about who you would like to spend your last hours with. Family, friends, lovers? Who would be important to you during the last six hours, and how would you wish to spend it with them? I couldn't fathom of it, but McKellar, who also wrote this story, does a brilliant job of it. This movie is amazing and beautiful and rarely tragic. It is definitely worth your time and definitely worth the purchase. It's food for thought, and a brilliant accomplishment by McKellar. If you like him, check out some of his other work such as Exotica and eXistenZ. END"
A quiet little masterpiece
Jill Traynor | 07/26/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"First of all, I hope you haven't read the Amazon.com review above, as it spoils one of the film's surprises. Second, I would give the film itself 5 stars, but I deduct a star for the lackluster DVD presentation. It's full-frame (not letterboxed) and as for extras, there are none - it's your basic no-frills movie-and-a-trailer. Bleh. (Hell, the trailer is letterboxed at 1.85, why isn't the film?) Having said that, you still need to own this. Or at least rent it, be blown away, come back here, and order it. Don McKellar has fashioned one of the most subtly moving directorial debuts in recent memory. So many classic moments...Callum Keith Rennie showing his friend McKellar his special room; Sandra Oh's reaction to a message on an answering machine; David Cronenberg (yes, him; great director, kind of a one-note actor, but his presence here is amusing and perfectly Canadian) sitting alone in his apartment eating ice cream; McKellar and his sister Sarah Polley (who deserves more screen time) trying to grin and bear it as their mom throws the final Christmas party they'll never get to have; Cronenberg's employee at the gas company getting drunk and wobbling around the office; Genevieve Bujold saying "Bon voyage" in the elevator. It's a full package. The movie honestly earns its laughs and tears (I'm not a big crier at movies, but I misted up a few times). McKellar's handling of a variety of characters, and crosscutting between same, should be an object lesson to any filmmaker attempting this type of group portrait (are you listening, P.T. Anderson? A movie doesn't have to be 3 hours long and have characters blurt out their neuroses in order to move us). This is a quiet, understated, very Canadian vision of the end of the world. In 95 minutes it speaks volumes about the variety of approaches to life and death (do you go for the gold and try to fulfill your wildest fantasies? or do you strive to maintain some dignity and integrity in the face of apocalypse?). Look at this film and look at "Armageddon," and it will tell you everything that's wrong with Hollywood blockbusters and everything that can be terrific about indie films."
"There is no more night, the world is plunged in eternal light. Toronto, 8PM, four hours before the end of the world. The government has closed down two months ago, there is no more police, and the city is under anarchy rule. The masses have claimed the streets : car travel is hazardous at best. Some people work to report or entertain people in the last hours (such as the radio announcer who proudly announces "here at CKRT... with you... until the end"), but most services are down. This is it. This is THE END. What do you do ? Patrick Wheeler already knows the answer. He is invited to his parents' home, where his mother is preparing a Christmas dinner, even though it is not Christmas. A cynic at heart and seemingly disgusted at the "fake" of a family he never liked, he can't help disparaging his mother's efforts to give peace to her family. After he leaves, he is planning to wait until the last minutes, when he will install his radio system outside, play some good music, sit in a chair, and wait for the end. As good a way to go, I suppose. Including Patrick, we follow a group of loosely-knit people as they prepare for the end, including Sandra Oh, whose desperation to get to her husband intertwines her life with Patrick, Craig Zwiller, best friend of Patrick who decides to spend his last days in constant sex, a French teacher (played by Geneviève Bujold), a pianist, and others. In this frenzy of violence in the streets on the one hand, and the desire for a final accomplishment played out by his friends on the other hand, Patrick wants no part of all this and wants to die alone, but events conspire to derail his simple plans. He is interesting to follow, as an egoist character who spurns the superficiality and frenzy of those around him, while deeply aware of the gravity of the situation. Sort of tying the movie together is the president of the gas company (played by known sci-fi director David Cronenberg, an added plus), who has made it his job to call every customer to thank them and wish them good final hours. The masses go crazy in fear and revolt, as masses are wont to do, but that's not what concerns the movie (a Hollywood take on this plot would have concentrated on the violence, or saving the Earth, or otherwise some meaningless romance, and that's why I don't bother to watch Hollywood movies). There is only as much violence as necessary, but this is not a slow movie - in fact, if there is one thing I have against Last Night, it's that it doesn't stop. Moments of contemplation would have helped. As for how to define it, you could say it's a mix of black comedy and drama, although I'm not sure that really captures it. It all looks perfectly "natural", if you understand me - the humour and drama seem completely incidental. This is what impressed me most. Like Cube, it got moderate critical approval but few people seem to think it's a masterpiece. I guess my love for science-fiction shines through again. This is the kind of movie I love - hard science-fiction, no special effects, no more violence than necessary, paced like clockwork (in this case, I guess there was not much choice, huh ?), lots of dialogue, as natural as possible, and very moving despite - or rather, because of - the lack of Hollywood-like action and histrionics. If you have the same tastes as I do, it is highly likely that you will love Last Night. The acting is delicious, especially Don McKellar as Patrick (he really enhances the movie as its main actor), and David Cronenberg. In his review, Roger Ebert recounts the following anecdote. On a talk show in Toronto, Wayne Clarkson, the former director of the Toronto Film Festival, explained the difference between Canadian and American movies by using Last Night as example : "Sandra Oh goes into a grocery story to find a bottle of wine for dinner. The store has been looted, but she finds two bottles still on the shelf. She takes them down, evaluates them, chooses one, and puts the other one politely back on the shelf. That's how you know it's a Canadian film." Patrick Wheeler: I think maybe I should mention before you make any faux pas here, that we have a tradition in this family, that we don't kill other people."