AccessReel Reviews – The Darkest Hour

AccessReel Reviews – The Darkest Hour

3D sci-fi thriller about a group of young Americans visiting Russia when aliens invade earth.Produced by Russian filmmaker TimurBrekmambetov (Night Watch, Wanted), the film ‘The Darkest Hour’ promises to differentiate itself from other alien invasion movies by showing the attacks and response from a Russian perspective.

Directed by Chris Gorak, ‘The Darkest Hour’ brings us another low budget alien invasion film along the same lines as ‘Skyline’, and the more recent ‘Attack the Block’, however ‘The Darkest Hour’ seeks to differentiate itself by taking place in a slightly alternative setting being Moscow. Also attached to the project is Timur Bekmambetov in a producer role, Bekmambetov previously directed the films ‘Wanted’, ‘Day Watch’ and ‘Night Watch’.

‘The Darkest Hour’ quickly introduces its main characters wasting very little time before throwing them into the middle of an alien invasion. Such little care for characters could be forgiven if the film took a moment later on to round them out a little further however ‘The Darkest Hour’ never manages to do this convincingly and when the film does take a few moments to allow the characters a moment to shine they tend to be written in a manner which contradicts their earlier characteristics.

Each alien invasion film of this type brings with it a different take on the invading creatures, their methods and reasons, and the chaos that ensures as part of the invasion. ‘The Darkest Hour’ is no different though it does this in a more senseless and convoluted manner than most. The story underpinning the film brings with it little to no interesting elements that help it stand out from other films of the genre, most of the events are fairly derivative though the film does manage to deliver some interesting and colourful characters during the final acts of the film.

Lead actors Emile Hirsch and Max Minghella are a long way from their best performances here, particularly Hirsch whom is a far better actor than what his performance here indicates. The dialogue they have to work with leaves something to be desired with performances coming across quite weak from the central cast.

Some of the continuity in the film is hugely lacking with major sequences occurring next to each other with no logical sense of flow connecting them. Scenes that are so disjointed but were somehow overlooked or ignored from the editing side of post-production removes any level of immersion the film has achieved with its audience.

On the visual effects side of things it takes a fairly minimalistic approach, and with a production budget of approximately $35 million, it’s disappointing that the effects shots weren’t of a higher quality given ‘District 9’ achieved so much more with less. The creature concepts and designs themselves are interesting but not overly so with the more detailed reveals by the end of the film failing to deliver on some of the mystery built up in the first act.

The preview screening for ‘The Darkest Hour’ was a 3D screening, and the use of 3D technology here is sparse and adds very little to the experience. There are long stretches where the effect is not used or only barely used, leaving just a few moments where it stands out. Ultimately I can’t recommend the additional cost of a 3D viewing for this film, if you have the option keep to the regular (and cheaper) version.

Given the number of quality films that exist within this genre it’s difficult to recommend ‘The Darkest Hour’ to any audiences other than alien invasion film completionists. There are better entries in the genre to be found including ‘District 9’, ‘Cloverfield’, or ‘Attack the Block’.

I’m giving ‘The Darkest Hour’ 1.5 out of 5 stars, it’s released in theatres around Australia on Thursday 19 January 2012.