Well I think they should take that back because no matter how fertile an imagination you have The Darkest Hour will finally confirm that suspicion you had that invisible electricity isn’t actually that scary. At all. Not even when it turns people into fairy dust and eats your energy. Not even then.
The film starts by following two American internet entrepreneurs (Emile Hirsch and Max Minghella) who head to Moscow to finalise a business deal. When they learn that their idea has been stolen by a Swedish opportunist (Joel Kinnaman) they head to a nightclub and hook up with two female tourists (Olivia Thirlby and Rachael Taylor). A black out occurs and soon enough the world is being attacked by invisible aliens that feed of electricity whilst showing a stark disregard for the integrity of the human body.
As soon as our two All-American heroes grace the screen with their thoroughly unlikable presence – cock-blocked as they are by an alien apocalypse and bitter about the loss of their creepy dating idea to a scheming swede – one quickly realises that you won’t be empathising with anyone any time soon. Add to this a lack of decent special effects and a couple of unimaginative action sequences and all you are left with is a cold empty shell of a film, devoid of invention nor genre thrills.
Finding the key to survival in nothing more than being attractive and having access to a wholesale amount of lightbulbs, the young cast do a passable job but it’s the writing that’s at fault . The screenplay by Jon Spaihts is dry and peppered with placeholder characters who breeze through the carnage with little to say and surprisingly little to do. Whenever anyone is speaking it’s just plot exposition and whenever anyone isn’t the film is just efficiently disposing of the plot, going through the motions until eventually it all grinds to a giddy halt and the film ends. But not before giving us a terrifying glimpse at the spectre of a sequel.
Whilst it’s a cliché ridden and wholly derivative affair it does come as a bit of a surprise that it’s set in Moscow. This of course has much to do with the influence of producer Timur Bekmambetov but it’s an interesting decision nonetheless. However The Darkest Hour’s attempts to differentiate itself through its location are slapdash and grossly offensive at best. All American business boys Sean and Ben get double crossed within about ten minutes by those lousy thieving Muscovites. You know, the ones called Yuri and Boris wearing those big furry hats like you see in the films. With the music, that sounds like all of that Russian music, because it’s all the same. Those films. You know, the stupid ones. How this came from the mind of the man who has written Prometheus (Spaihts) I don’t know, but that may become abundantly and unexpectedly clear come June.
The main mystery on show here though is that of director Chris Gorak who back in the heady creative days of 2006 wrote and directed the striking and thoroughly thought provoking Right At Your Door. A film low on budget and big on ideas, it showed the man to be a promising young talent, ready to create heaps of atmosphere and apocalyptic destruction from nothing more than a house and some wonderfully committed performances. The opposite is on show here. Whereas before the implied consequences of a dirty bomb were enough to paste a thick layer of doom laden subtext over his small theatrical drama, this time round he’s got money to blow and he’s blown it on crummy CGI. Whereas before a concept said a thousand words, this time around million has said very little at all.
The Darkest Hour was released in UK cinemas on the 13th of January.