Review: The Darkest Hour
PLOT: Two young American software developers (Emile Hirsch & Max Minghella), in Moscow on business, find themselves among the few survivors of an alien invasion. Along with three other survivors (Olivia Thirlby, Rachael Taylor & Joel Kinnaman), they scour the city looking for a way to save themselves from the invaders, who feed off human energy like fuel.
REVIEW: THE DARKEST HOUR could have really been something. All the ingredients were there. The premise, while hardly new, has been given a bit of international flavouring by setting it in Moscow, and the young cast is far better than most films of this ilk ever manage to assemble. Too bad everything else about it is so damn messy, as it keeps this from being little more than a passable, if moronic time-filler.
Right off the bat, it's obvious that something's really off with THE DARKEST HOUR, in that the dialogue, courtesy of screenwriter Jon Spaihts (who's also got a writing credit on Ridley Scott's PROMETHEUS) is atrocious. An early scene involving one of the characters arguing with a Russian flight attendant is so bad, I initially thought that maybe the script had been written in Russian and translated via Google Translate, without anyone bothering to see if the translation made sense. Things aren't helped by director Chris Gorak's tin ear for dialogue, with some of the line-readings seemingly like a take that went wrong, and ended up in the film by accident.
Even Emile Hirsch, who's normally a startlingly good actor (his performance in INTO THE WILD is a classic) initially comes off badly, and truly the first twenty minutes are bad enough that I was thinking of amending my “worst-of '11” list to include this. At this point, the only thing that kept THE DARKEST HOUR from sitting atop the scrap heap alongside the similarly themed SKYLINE, was the likability of the four protagonists. While Hirsch isn't quite able to turn THE DARKEST HOUR around, he's still a charismatic guy, who could probably really deliver in the right type of genre vehicle. Ditto Max Minghella, who really impressed me a few years ago in the little-seen AGORA, but hasn't got much to do here. Olivia Thirlby and the striking Rachel Taylor are pretty much treated like eye-candy, but like Hirsch and Minghella, are likable enough actors that the two-dimensionality of their characters isn't as grating as it could have been.
One wonders whether THE DARKEST HOUR was thrown together in a hurry, as a this seems like a very haphazardly pieced-together flick, considering the $44 Million price tag. The CGI isn't bad, at least until the aliens themselves are revealed, but the other technical specs, including an off-kilter sound mix, didn't seem up to snuff for a film of this scale. Particularly bad is the hack-style editing, where scenes flow awkwardly into each other, adding up to an extremely sloppy 89-minute film.
Luckily things perk up once the carnage starts, although the film doesn't really start to work until about forty-five minutes in, once our band of survivors start meeting some colorful Russian survivors. From there the film actually becomes quite entertaining, especially once Hirsch and Co., meet up with a gang of Russian Freedom fighters who look like they escaped from a Russian knock-off of THE ROAD WARRIOR. They're absolutely ridiculous, but they add a degree of fun to the film that hadn't been there before, and after about five minutes of their antics, I started to wish that THE DARKEST HOUR had focused on them instead especially once one of them shows up on an metal-plated horse. Now THAT'S entertainment!
Suffice to say, THE DARKEST HOUR is really a B (or rather, a C) movie- that will probably have a quick stay in theatres before hitting Blu-ray and Netflix, which is probably the best place to enjoy a somewhat fun, but ultimately disposable flick such as this. Yeah, it's a mess, but at least it's redeemed by a fun second-half, although the cast and international locale suggests that if the scripting and direction had been better, this might have really cooked as a slick piece of holiday fun. Too bad. If you want an action fix, go see SHERLOCK or MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE instead.
|Extra Tidbit:||I opted to see DARKEST HOUR in good-old 2D, so I can't say whether the 3D is any good.|