It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Gus Van Sant has made three movies in which the camera follows young men as they wander toward their deaths. All three films resolutely refuse to find a message in the deaths. No famous death can take place in our society without being endlessly analyzed by experts, who find trends, insights, motives and morals with alarming facility. It's brave of Van Sant to allow his characters to simply wander off, in John Webster's words, "to study a long silence."
In "Gerry" (2003), death is accidental, caused by carelessness. Two friends fecklessly wander into a desert, get lost, and don't get found. In "Elephant" (2003), death is preceded by murder, and is deliberate but pointless. Two friends carry out a plan to kill students and teachers at their high school, and then they, too, are shot. Now in "Last Days," death is a condition that overtakes a character as he mumbles and stumbles into the final stage of drug addiction.
These deaths are not heroic or meaningful, and although they may be tragic they lack the stature of classical tragedy. They are stupid and careless, and in "Elephant" they are monstrous, because innocent lives are also taken. If Van Sant is saying anything (I am not sure he is), it's that society has created young men who do not live as if they value life.
"Last Days" is dedicated to the suicide of Kurt Cobain, who led the band Nirvana, influential in the creation of grunge rock. Grunge as a style is a deliberate way of presenting the self as disposable. In a disclaimer that distances itself from Cobain with cruel precision, the movie says its characters are "in part, fictional."