Posted May 11, 2012 by Alex Moss Editor in Films
 
 

Darkest Hour, The DVD


A global alien invasion seen through the eyes of Americans in Russia?

A global alien invasion seen
through the eyes of Americans in Russia?

Alien
invasion movies are a dime a dozen, last year alone saw two fairly big sci-fi
flops with bug-eyed aliens trashing LA in the shape of Battle Los Angeles and Skyline. Indeed Los Angeles rarely fairs well
when it comes to alien invasion. For
that matter we rarely see aliens attacking anyone other than the might of the
USA who promptly dispatch them with their military machine. So The Darkest Hour at least tries
something fresh by setting the film in Russia, and then undermines it by having
the heroes be stereotypical Americans.

In
Moscow to sell their latest programme, software designers Sean (Emile Hirsch) and Ben (Max Minghella) find themselves beaten
to the punch by rival Skyler (Joel
Kinnaman
). Determined to drown
their sorrows they head to a bar where they meet fellow US native Natalie (Olivia Thirlby) and her photographer
friend Anne (Rachel Taylor). But no sooner are the group beginning
to feel better about life than the power cuts out. Heading outside they witness glowing aspirations descending
into the city as these ‘visitors’ begin to wage war on the world. Surviving the initial attack the group
soon realise the aliens can only be seen by powering electrical
appliances. Deciding to only
travel at night, with bulbs as ‘early warning signals’ the group hope to reach
the American embassy in order to find survivors.

That
aliens these days are normally little green men, insect looking critters, Rasta
wearing crab-faced Predators or phallic looking xenomorhps, The Darkest Hour
does throw up a fresh concept for visitors from another universe. Here the critters are balls of energy,
arriving on earth to mine the planet for any minerals they can devour as food. Add to this a unique way of knowing
when the entities are near and there are moments of Darkest Hour that are both
fresh and fun.

However,
the script is horribly clunky dealing in either one dimensional characters or
people so eccentric you just know they’re going to bite the big one sooner
rather than later. Furthermore, Sean
seems to be able to hazard astonishingly accurate guess work as to the aliens
abilities making him some kind of David Attenborough for extraterrestrials,
although where he gains this knowledge is never revealed or explored. It seems a lazy way of having our
heroes fight back rather than become piles of grey ash.

Director
Chris Gorak knows a thing or two
about making large-scale disaster events focus on the personal after the taught
thrills of Right At Your Door. Here there is a similar concept with
the young pretty looking people never witnessing alien versus jet dog-fights but
rather surviving the onslaught like Tom
Cruise
did in War Of The Worlds. The final act becomes a mis-judged
computer-game looking affair of guerrilla warfare having clearly lost sight of
what the film was trying to achieve.

The
script never allows for the characters to do much. Thirlby and Taylor are asked to do little more than be
damsels in distress, constantly shrieking and running. You’d think having survived
Transformers Rachel Taylor would know a little more about battling aliens, but instead
she tends to just gawp at the pretty lights. Minghella does his usual stern look routine but never looks
remotely interested by the events unfolding around him. Having taken something
of a hiatus since 2009’s Ang Lee directed Taking Woodstock it is good to see
one of Hollywood’s most exciting young actors back on the scene in the form of
Emile Hirsch. Here he is
undoubtedly the best actor on display, but his character is asked to do little
more than be smug before becoming the brave hero, both of which Hirsch does
well.

The
Darkest Hour is a film that ticks certain boxes but rarely dares to raise the
bar of the genre. With its short
running time it zips along quite quickly and suffices as a fairly forgettable action
thriller, but the pay-off fails to come even remotely close to the set-up.


Alex Moss Editor

 
Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com