The Darkest Hour
Well, no one at all answered the poll I put on my last review. You know, the poll where I asked you, the loyal reader, what movie I should watch next? The Darkest Hour, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) or Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979). I picked The Darkest Hour. Also, to all the lovely ladies that I know who had offered to help me pick a paint colour for my basement, well I did that on my own today too. Jeez, some people think if you ask them to help you pick a colour that you expect them to put it on the wall for you too! Sadly I both hate and enjoy painting; yes, tonight’s task would have been more lively (and probably faster) if I had someone else around to talk to while painting, but it also was fairly relaxing doing it alone. If anyone is interested, it will need another coat, and hopefully I’ll get around to installing the subfloor this week; but if you want to see the colour you’ll have to actually come and see it.
So I selected The Darkest Hour. I had been intrigued by this one since I saw the ads back around Christmas (I believe), and now that I’ve finally gotten around to it, I’m quit glad that I did. The Darkest Hour opens with two friends, Sean (Emile Hirsch) and Ben (Max Minghella) landing in Moscow to present their business idea to a company with hopes of expanding their “travelling social media” software to the Russian marketplace. Their software essentially lets travellers or vacationers check in and see what restaurants, bars and clubs are in their area as well as seeing where other vacationing users of the software are going. After getting screwed out of the deal by their friend/associate Skyler (Joel Kinnaman), the two head to a bar to drown their sorrows. At the bar they meet a couple of girls who were using their software, Natalie (Olivia Thirlby) and Anne(Rachael Taylor), as well as Skyler. Up to this point The Darkest Hour has been just like any other movie, some smart-alecky humour, a bit of hinted romantic drama (Natalie has come to Russia after a breakup), and some corporate backstabbing (don’t trust a Swede named Skyler, they just sound devious). With all that out of the way, the power goes out and strange lights start to appear in the sky, shimmering at first, then floating and drifting to the ground. And then the lights start to eat people. They’re shredded. Turned to ash. Dead, by means of a pretty cool special effect actually. Now the chaos ensues, as our group of five characters run to escape the invading aliens and barricade themselves in the nightclub’s basement for five days, hoping the coast will be clear. When they emerge, they discover that everyone is dead. The streets are empty and the group is now set off in search of other survivors.
The Darkest Hour really reminded me of an old Twilight Zone episode. We didn’t really see the aliens, as they were invisible. We got to watch the relationship of the group evolve, forming a pretty good psychological thriller along the way. Though the visual effects were excellent, this was a movie where what you didn’t see had a greater impact. The way the group learned about the aliens and avoided them was very well written. These invisible aliens conducted electricity, when they were around things such as light bulbs or cars, they lit up and started to work again as the alien passed by. This observation gave the survivors a way to detect the threat as they walked around with light bulbs hanging around their necks and LED bracelets; and I loved the ingenuity of that idea and of the writing. The sci-fi geek that I am found the “science” of The Darkest Hour very cool. Watching the bonus features on the DVD, there was an 8 minute short that showed the plight of other groups of survivors around the world, and it was pretty good too. As you may recall a good story will hook me in every time, The Darkest Hour was a pretty straight forward story, but it was well written and plotted out; earning it my earlier Twilight Zone comparison. It didn’t remind me of any episode in particular, but the style and way it was told, just reminded me of the show for some reason, and that’s a good thing.
The Darkest Hour was produced by Timur Bekmambetov, the director of such fine films as Night Watch and Day Watch, Wanted, and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter; which I’m looking forward to watching when it comes out on DVD in a few weeks. I read the book Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and really enjoyed it; and a friend of mine said it was a very good “popcorn” film, so you all can look forward to a review in the very near future of that one too. The casting for The Darkest Hour was pretty good with strong performances by all. It was a little surprising to see several of the characters killed off mid-movie that you really thought were going to make it. My newest favourite actress, Olivia Thirlby, was front and center giving a good performance again, but this time out there was nothing scene stealing or as amazing as I had seen in her previous works. That is not to say she wasn’t good, because she was still very good, but this time there wasn’t really the opportunity to knock it out of the park.
The Darkest Hour was a good sci-fi thriller, a story of survivors and surviving. It was nice to see that the writers took their task fairly seriously and didn’t just fall into the trap of making their leads indestructible. They didn’t give them every answer to their situations, they had them learn and earn it. I’ve seen too many movies where the hero is just handed every solution by the writers, and if a movie is supposed to make you suspend your disbelief for an hour and a half, that really throws it back at you. It was nice to see the ending of the movie left open; small spoiler: the fractured group of five twentysomethings stuck in Moscow does not save the entire planet from an alien invasion. One minor grief I did have (and I noticed this and voiced this opinion at work when the DVD came out months ago) was that the description on the back of the box says “The Darkest Hour is the story of five young people who find themselves stranded in Moscow, fighting to survive in the wake of a devastating alien attack.”, but the front cover clearly only shows four people! Right away you can assume that they’re not all going to make it to the end credits…Still, the movie delivered an enjoyable, though kind of quiet, night in front of the TV, and I would have to recommend it.