The Darkest Hour
dir Chris Gorak
scr Jon Spaihts
prd Timur Bekmambetov, Tom Jacobson
with Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Max Minghella, Rachael Taylor, Joel Kinnaman, Veronika Ozerova, Dato Bakhtadze, Gosha Kutsenko, Nikolai Efremov, Vladimir Jaglich, Arthur Smoljaninov, Anna Roudakova
release Rus 22.Dec.11, US 25.Dec.11,
UK 13.Jan.12
11/Russia Fox 1h29
The Darkest Hour
Moscow's burning: Thirlby and Hirsch

minghella taylor kinnaman
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Darkest Hour An intriguing idea and inventive visual approach is let down by a script that runs out out of steam before it ever reaches full speed. There simply isn't enough to the characters or plot to hold our interest.

Sean (Hirsch) has accompanied his pal Ben (Minghella) to Moscow for a work pitch that immediately goes awry. Drowning their sorrows in a hip bar, they meet hot tourists Natalie and Anne (Thirlby and Taylor). But a citywide blackout signals the arrival of alien creatures that aren't much more than pulses of light and energy. And they're intent on obliterating humans. So these four young people start an odyssey of survival, meeting a variety of colourful characters along the way.

The premise is actually rather catchy, as is the way the central characters are foreigners way out of their comfort zones. But the screenplay never bothers to develop anyone beyond one or two personality traits, while their interaction feels oddly simplistic. As a result, we only get a sense of peril because the filmmakers tell us it's there; we never feel any fear for these people, because we can't really care if they survive or not.

That said, there is some nicely black humour woven throughout the script, cleverly echoing the Russian culture in the snappy dialog and sharp interaction. Scenes in which the foreigners and locals work through their differences to figure out a way forward are the most interesting moments in the story. They're far more engaging that the contrived but cool-looking mumbo jumbo about how to fight these electrical aliens.

The lack of a more personal connection is odd for director Gorak, whose Right At Your Door did the opposite: held us relentlessly in its grip without any big effects. This on the other hand is packed with eye-catching visual trickery, although the 3D is never used at all. And before Moscow is decimated, the film feels like a marketing tool for under 30s to visit a fabulous new clubbing destination, with its sexy boys and girls, lively bars and clubs, and a general disdain for the law.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 9.Jan.12

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© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall