Monday, 16 April 2012

The Darkest Hour (2012): Review

The Darkest Hour is a 2011 alien invasion film. Directed by Chris Gorak starring Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild, The Girl Next Door) and Olivia Thirlby (Juno). The film was shot entirely on location in Moscow, Russia.

 The film follows young entrepreneurs Sean (Hirsch) and Ben as they travel to Moscow for a business meeting to promote their new travel app. Upon arriving they discover they've been shafted by company exec Skyler (great Russian name) as the firm they had hoped to sell the idea to has simply copied the format and made their own app. As the boys commiserate on their failings they meet up with fellow globetrotters Natalie (Thirlby) and Anne in a local night club, however the party is cut short with a citywide blackout and subsequent alien attack. After huddling down in the basement for several hours, the group eventually emerge to find a post-apocalyptic Moscow and are forced into a fight for survival with the alien invaders.

 The Darkest Hour is directed by a man who had previously only been involved in production and art design, and it really shows. The film is nothing more than a hollow CGI vehicle with very little attempt at any plot or character development. This would be less insulting if the CGI was creative or original, the effects are of an impressive standard but there is a real lack of imagination with the creature design. The best thing I can liken the alien design to is a Van Der Graaf generator or perhaps disembodied Christmas lights, bland and unimpressive. This design relates to the fact that the aliens are essentially electro-static balls of energy and when they come into contact with humans, the victim turns to dust. The dust effects actually work quite well but the completely intangible nature of the aliens is not scary and builds no sense of dread for the suspenseful scenes.

 The worst thing about this film by far is the diabolical script and it's poor delivery. Even more worrying is the fact that writer Jon Spaihts has co-written the highly anticipated Prometheus (2012), as The Darkest Hour does not demonstrate an aptitude for science fiction screenwriting. Although initially I quite liked Hirsche and Minghella as the downtrodden buddies stuck in Moscow, this wore extremely thin incredibly fast and the characters who joined them were equally bland. Hirsch receives most of the terrible dialogue such as "It must be some electro-magnetic shit" and other such astute explanations for the aliens and their plan to take over the world. The real shame is, if the movie had chosen to take a more tongue-in-cheek approach then this probably would have worked, but the fact that the ridiculous premise is taken way too seriously is definitely it's downfall.

The Darkest Hour is a hollow pointless romp across Moscow featuring unlikeable characters and unconvincing antagonists. The shiny CGI and baby faced Hirsch will probably attract younger fans (after all the film is a 12A) but seasoned genre fans and anyone with half a brain will see straight through that. I would suggest that this film be retitled The Dullest Hour, but I wouldn't want to mislead anyone into thinking that it's so mercifully short, one to avoid.

1 Star *

What did you think of The Darkest Hour? Has the alien invasion genre run out of ideas?


  1. Ashley,

    Most critics and bloggers agree with you that The Darkest Hour was “a hollow pointless romp across Moscow featuring unlikeable characters and unconvincing antagonists.”

    I disagree completely with this assessment of the film. While I agree that the characters Sean and Ben, on the surface, are somewhat shallow, I think there is some growth in their characters - particularly Sean’s. I found many of the characters extremely likeable. Most of the Russian characters, which were played by Russian actors, were quite enjoyable to watch. My favorite was Boris, the leader of the Russian militia, who obviously was familiar with American cinema, as a lot of his English was spoken in idioms used in the movies. The electrical engineer and amateur inventor Sergei was an oddball, yet sympathetic character, who I really hated to see killed so quickly.

    I personally liked the design of the alien technology. It’s hard to criticize the actually alien designs themselves, because you only get to see glimpses of them when their energy shields go down. Maybe it’s because I’m a fan of older science fiction films from the 50’s that I liked the fact that the aliens were hidden behind their technology for almost the entire film. As to the tech itself, I thought that was well realized for what it was, which was energy-field based and quite different from most other sci-fi movies aliens which usually have metal-based space ships and very human-looking weapons.

    Do I think the Alien Invasion genre has run out of ideas? That’s like asking if any genre has run out of ideas. Science fiction is often used as metaphor; to portray something in a futurist setting or an advanced technology, that directly relates or corresponds to current events or technologies. Therefore, alien invasion films usually represent popular culture’s current fear of a foreign country or political structure. Most of the alien invasion films of the 1950’s were thinly veiled warnings against the “Red Menace” of communism and the U.S.S.R. in particular. I say all that to point out that as long as America – but humans in general – are afraid of foreign aggression, Hollywood will continue to make alien invasion films that feed into this fear. Does it make for good filmmaking? That depends on the people writing the screenplay, directing the film and the actors portraying the characters. If all these elements are done well, then yes we will continue to see good or even excellent alien invasion films.

    Is The Darkest Hour and excellent or perfect alien invasion film? No, but it is a competently executed one; and more importantly an entertaining one – at least to these old genre film fan’s eyes.

  2. I have to say that this movie is almost below average for me and i'm not recommending it to no one unless they want to spend hour and a half for nothing.