The Darkest Hour Review
The Darkest Hour is a 2012 American Sci-Fi horror film directed by former Art Director Chris Gorak (Right At Your Door) and follows two software developers as they try to survive an alien invasion. Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild) and Max Minghella (The Social Network) star as the software developers with Olivia Thirlby (Juno) and Rachael Taylor (Transformers) starring as two young love interests and Joel Kinnaman (The Killing) as a crafty antagonistic Swedish businessman.
It's hard to know where to start with The Darkest Hour as even the film itself does not know where to start. We are initially introduced to Minghella as the main character, with Thirlby as his love interest, as he arrives in Moscow to sell some social networking software to some Russian businessmen that is already being sold to them by Kinnaman (not sure how that works).
Having just travelled halfway across the world and walked straight into the businessmen's boardroom without being interrupted or receiving any prior knowledge or warming about what Kinnaman was up to, Minghella and Hirsch decide to drown their sorrows at a bar where they (completely coincidentally) manage to run into Kinnaman who is chatting up the girl that (completely coincidentally) they were interested in. Mere moments later, two young tourists arrive after contacting Minghella via his social network software and following some awkward pleasantries, are forced to band together with the developers as Moscow falls under siege from invisible human-vaporising aliens. After a few days hiding in a basement, the group (coincidentally now joined by Kinnaman) begin their journey of looking for survivors in an adventure that include hiding under cars, looting clothes shops, impossibly well-prepared Russian scientists, a tribe of armed resistance fighters and a submarine.
This may sound simple enough but The Darkest Hour is bizarrely inconsistent, both when it comes to how the aliens work and when it comes to the how the humans act. After the first half hour Hirsch becomes the main character and suddenly Thirlby becomes his love counterpart whilst Taylor who was previously teased as being attracted to Hirsch has now lost complete interest in him.
The previously cowardly Kinnaman is also the only character to nominate himself to be left alone and even then runs straight into the face of danger whilst Taylor is the most Australian sounding American, I've ever seen… or heard. Characters also have a bizarre talent of being able to teleport themselves over great distances almost instantly, especially in a scene where Hirsch and Thirlby are dumped into the river and whilst Hirsch manages to swim towards their target, Thirlby managed to –completely unseen – get out of the water, head away from their destination which was within yelling distance, run into the city, fire a warning flare and build a shielded compartment in a disused coach all within a matter of minutes. Yet when the main cast stay hidden in a basement for five days, both their hair and clothing stay in the exact same condition.
Whilst there is nothing wrong with the safe direction, the dialogue is surprising bland and uninspiring considering it comes from the writer of Prometheus (the Alien prequel out later this year), and Tyler Bates continues his hit-and-miss career with a rather boring soundtrack. The Darkest Hour also holds the claim to the most pointlessly use of 3D in 2012 thus far, a record that it stands to maintain for quite a while.
On a brighter note, there are several elements that Darkest Hour gets right, one of which is the most important part of the film: the aliens. It is hardly unforgivable to consider the concept of invisible aliens as lazy or cheap, but the lack of visual reference really enhances the tension and poses a serious threat. The florescent orange glow giving off by the aliens and their orange lasso-like tendrils add a great deal of colour, warmth and clarity to the darker scenes and creates a very visually interesting dynamic to the aliens. Their primary form of attack is a phenomenal vaporisation technique that looks amazing as long as you forget that it has been completely lifted from 2006's X-men: The Last Stand. Sadly it's not all good news though, as there are some discrepancies and plot holes that distract greatly from their appeal: when you actually get to see the creatures they are a boring brown colour and disappointingly look like a horrible CGI accident between the Super 8 monster and Doc Ock's tentacles from Spider-Man 2; they are portrayed floating yet one had to ability to crush a car by walking over it; they can only see electrical impulses yet when they set off electrical devices these remain completely unseen in their vision; perhaps I missed it by why exactly are they damaged by microwaves; and these creatures are hunting for metal so why hide inside a massive submarine?
Moving away from the plot hole-ridden aliens, the other element that the film got spot on was the Mad Max-style society of 'armoured' Russian resistance fighters, complete with flamethrowers and an 'armoured' horse. These characters were interesting, exciting and contained the potential for a far more emotional and intelligent storyline. Had the story focused on the young Russian survivor Vika, portrayed by Veronika Ozerova, discovering this post-apocalyptic tribe then The Darkest Hour might stand as I film that I could recommend but as it stands, that is not so much the case.
Ultimately The Darkest Hour has some genuinely good ideas but fails to execute them properly from a lack of creative storytelling to unlikable characters to a complete missed opportunity with some potentially exciting aliens. If you have to watch The Darkest Hour then don't bother watching in 3D and if you end up missing it, then that's no real loss at all. Or better yet, just sit in a room, turn off all the lights and enjoy your own darkest hour – at least the dialogue would be better.