The following review was published at Dawn.com on 2nd January 2012. This post is an unedited version.
Fill Me Up Mate! – ET’s Terrorize During a Quick Stop-Over.
By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid
“The Darkest Hour” is the new conservatively-designed alien invasion flick featuring a lot of places to hide: basements, glass-panels, under cars, frequency-padded apartments. You see, the world is besieged by invading aliens who look like decapitated, floating heads with tentacles that prove Stephen Hawking’s theory right – they’re scavengers doing a quick stopover for an energy refill.
Unlike regular Hollywood features, we’re stranded in Moscow – a reason, I suppose to do with producer Timur Bekmambetov (director “Wanted”) and the budgetary cost-effectiveness for foreign films produced in Russia.
We focus on a set of lonesome foursome internationals (Emile Hirsh, Max Minghella, Rachel Taylor and Olivia Thrilby) that meet in a bar and then experience the awesome: strange flickering specs of energy glide down in wholesale quantities over Moscow, sucking up the city’s supply of electricity.
The flickering specs then land, disappear into thin air, and start to de-particle the city’s population. The four and a conniving entrepreneur Skyler (Joel Kinnaman) hide inside a supply room for four days and finally muster courage to surface into a people-less, smashed-up Russia – courtesy of adequately placed CGI work.
Director Chris Gorak (previously an Art-Director, who debuted with “Right at Your Door”), decides to stay away from the reason of the unseen alien’s attack, which, if we’re to guess (as the film’s leads do by the climax), is cultivation of Earth’s natural resources – a theme milked in almost all recent alien-attack movies (Battle: Los Angeles, Skyline). Resources the cast is inept at exploiting to their advantage.
There’s also little room for backstories, the most center-stage of which is Emile Hirsh and Max Minghella’s – their website idea was swindled by Skyler because they did not sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement. The girls have even less of a background to mull over, not that they’ll need it.
“The Darkest Hour” has enough fodder to fuel a direct-to-dvd franchise for years, a pre-indication of the film’s true potential. It also looks and moves more as a videogame, than a feature film. But that, as arresting as it sounds, is a plus point.
Most of the 83 minute running-time runs like a series of missions of a next-gen Playstation title, with difficulty level set to easy. Dash, slink, jump, hide, find supplies, gain additional forces (eccentric engineer-cum-inventor Dato Bakhtadze, parentless teen scavenger Veronika Vernadskaya, and Gosha Kutsenko, who leads a rag-tag group of commandoes on an armored horse) and finally outfox and kill the invisible enemy with a wave-emitting “shock-gun”. A game version, perchance featuring the same plot-points as the film, is out right now.
Despite what the title insinuates, I am sure its producer did not mean it as a campaign against K.E.S.C.
Released by Summit, 20th Century Fox and Mandviwalla Entertainment, “The Darkest Hour” is rated PG-13. The film is currently playing in Pakistani cinemas.
Mohammad Kamran Jawaid is the resident film critic at Images on Sunday, who writes an exclusive Second Opinion based film review column “Animadversion”.
Dawn.com version is at: http://www.dawn.com/2012/01/02/movie-review-the-darkest-hour.html