The Darkest Hour is the latest in the recent batch of alien invasion movies (Attack the Block, Battle: Los Angeles, Skyline, The Thing) and whilst it isn’t a complete waste of time, has nothing much to offer outside it’s interesting gimmick.
The central characters are a bunch of tourists who happen to be in Russia when the alien invasion begins. Americans Sean (Emile Hirsch) and Ben (Max Minghella) happen to cross paths with Natalie (Olivia Thirlby) and her Aussie friend Anne (Rachael Taylor) after the guys’ business deal goes awry. The four of them manage to survive the initial onslaught but then must try to seek safety, making their way through the dead Moscow streets whilst the invaders prowl about, hunting down stragglers.
The aliens – for the most part – are invisible, and this is the most fun part of the film. Our helpless heroes must look for other signs of their approach, and there are a few moments of tension that work quite well. Unfortunately, that’s it. The film takes its characters seriously but doesn’t provide them with any depth. Hirsch and Minghella get the job done, whilst the only standout would be Thirlby. Poor Taylor gets lumped with playing the equivalent of Hudson from Aliens. Apparently the only direction she received was “be scared”, and it gets tiring pretty quickly.
There are several glaring inconsistencies in The Darkest Hour, the most prominent being a character that apparently only speaks Russian and needs someone to translate until ten minutes later when he engages in a highly technical conversation in English. The fact that the film is set in Russia as opposed to Anytown, USA, isn’t as interesting as it sounds. The opening scenes seem at pains to explain how Western modern Moscow is, and the only real issues that arise spring from the protagonists not being able to read any of the street maps. The fact that anyone important we come across is multilingual was a real missed opportunity. Having central characters having trouble communicating would have made for a genuinely interesting aspect of the narrative. And come to think of it, I can’t ever remember an alien invasion flick where the leads were already in a foreign country when the intergalactic shizz went down.
The special effects get the job done. Considering the polarising effects that RealD glasses have, I was fearful of a film that had the word ‘dark’ in the title. Thankfully, the powers that be were clever enough to compensate for the dimming effect, so much so that when I took off the glasses to compare, the ‘night time’ scenes were comically over-lit. Thus, the 3D isn’t problematic, but as usual doesn’t really add much to the experience.
The idea behind The Darkest Hour should have allowed for a fantastic film, but instead what we have left is something that feels like it could have been adequately explored in an episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’ or ‘Doctor Who’. At the end of the day, it’s more than a little bit daft, however just entertaining enough to get it across the line.Rating: