Review: These Final Hours
PLOT: With the end the world only hours away, a young man finds himself on a journey for one blowout of a party. Along the way he discovers a little girl, who may very well lead to his own personal redemption.
REVIEW: The end of the world has long been a scenario played out on the big screen. That frightening idea that all our loved ones and everything we hold dearly will disappear into the great abyss. This is the story behind the surprisingly effective Australian drama THESE FINAL HOURS. This tale revolves around James (Nathan Phillips), a man who has the sole purpose of getting to a party to leave this very earth in style - or possibly finding shelter - much to his lovers dismay. Thus he begins his impossible search for escape from the devastating events only hours away. And thanks to a winning performance from the leading man, it is easy to sympathize with him.
James (Phillips) faces the beginning of the end with his lover Zoe (Jessica De Gouw). The two share a romantic interlude together, yet he has his mind set to go to his brother for an end of the world bash. Much to Zoes heartbreak, he takes off leaving her alone as he is desperate to find any possibility of survival - she is inclined to face the end at her home on the beach. Along the way, James discovers a little girl named Rose (Angourie Rice) who has been kidnapped. After saving her from uncertain doom, the two are off together as Rose attempts to convince her newfound partner to bring her home to her father.
For all this to work, you have to offer up a leading man who has the capability to make you accept some of his selfish choices. Nathan Phillips (WOLF CREEK) is incredibly well cast as this conflicted young man who is watching the world die around him. Once he saves Rose, the two share an impressively touching relationship, one that is far less sentimental than you might expect. Rice is also very good here, as is the short sequence where a crazed partygoer (played by the terrific Sarah Snook) is convinced that she is her daughter. My biggest complaint may very well be that Snook isnt in this film nearly enough. Yet this was before her attention grabbing performances in JESSABELLE and PREDESTINATION.
Writer/director Zak Hilditch creates a stylish and occasionally suspenseful feature that places focus on drama, as opposed to the horror. There are certainly grim moments on display, as well as a party sequence that is a fueled by sex and drugs. If we were facing our final hours, it would be a safe bet that many would find their most animalistic nature taking control. It is especially disturbing as young Rose is surrounded by an orgy of sex and drugs, hoping to find somebody to bring her to her beloved dad. Yet it is never altogether gruesome or violent. Sure you have a few scenes of brutality but it is not the focus. The most graphic images are generally hinted at or happening off-screen. Considering this is James story, it works well enough without the bloodshed.
Even still, as well made as this Australian feature may be, it does occasionally feel less impactful than it could have. And while I give praise to the film for not reveling in horrific images, it might have been appropriate to give a little more time to the beastly way that people can react to such a tragedy. When the reveal of certain deaths happen, it is far less shocking than it could have been. In one particular moment it is so briskly handled that it is difficult to feel much for anybody involved. Thankfully, Phillips is good enough to make it work in his performance when needed.
Credit must be given to the better than expected special visual effects. There are moments that are equally horrifying as well as strangely beautiful. This helps to give a little bit more of an impact during the final sequence than youd expect from a film that is so personally told. The massive effects are seldom used, but when they are, it is well worth the wait.
THESE FINAL HOURS is an intriguing take on the end of the world. It may be subdued and far less horrific than it could have been, yet it still works. Thanks to a couple of terrific performances from Phillips and Rice - as well as the lovely work from De Gouw - it is easy to connect to this very personal drama. Hilditch takes a chance and avoids many of the cliches that can often plague disaster films such as this. And while he could have taken a few more chances, he keeps this story layered and essentially, very human. This is a moving story about our final hours on earth with strong performances, as well as a uniquely touching finale.
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