The Darkest Hour (2011)
“Survive The Holidays”
The Darkest Hour (2011)
Director: Chris Gorak
Cast: Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Max Minghella
Synopsis: In Moscow, five young people lead the charge against an alien race who have attacked Earth via our power supply.
There was a time when a world under threat from invading aliens would be saved from destruction by the US military; today, the role of global saviour is just as likely to fall upon the sloped shoulders of a pair of computer geeks with little life experience, poor business skills, and under-developed chat-up techniques. In the case of The Darkest Hour, the nerds are Sean (Emile Hirsch – Killer Joe) and Ben (Max Minghella – Agora), a pair of software developers who are in Moscow to market their social media travel app. However, they quickly discover they’ve been double-crossed by their Swedish partner Skyler (Joel Kinnaman – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Robocop) and retire to a nightclub to drunkenly commiserate with one another and to try and pull a couple of girls, Natalie (Olivia Thirlby – Dredd) and Anne (Rachael Taylor).
It’s while they’re employing their best lines on the girls that the invasion of the world by invisible (i.e. budget-friendly) aliens gets underway. The scene in The Darkest Hour in which these aliens descend to earth is quite well done; eschewing the usual space fleet firing lasers at fleeing civilians, or a giant mother ship hovering over a major city, it has ethereal golden orbs drifting silently to earth before disappearing. These orbs then reappear to turn anyone in their path into dust in quite a neat effect which is, unfortunately, done to death by story’s end. Our heroes and their new girlfriends, together with bad guy Skyler, find refuge in the nightclub’s store cupboard, where they hide out for as long as the food lasts. Had they found refuge in a food warehouse you get the impression that they would have remained there until death by old age claimed them. However, forced to venture outside by their rumbling bellies, they emerge from their sanctuary to find a dust-covered Moscow in a state of near-desertion. The aliens have turned everyone to dust, you see, thus doing away with the need for hundreds of extras and the issue of disease in a post-Apocalyptic world. Every now and then, our fearful heroes stumble across one of the alien orbs patrolling the city looking for survivors and stray dogs, alerted to their presence by the fact they inadvertently transmit an electrical charge that causes dead lights to glow.
Thinking about it, Sean and Ben don’t so much save the world as try not to bump into the aliens while they run around in it. They eventually come across a young girl and an old man living in an apartment block. The entire interior of this odd couple’s apartment is confined within a cage, which apparently prevents the aliens from detecting their presence. In the safety of this refuge the man has developed a microwave machine gun (as you do) that exploits the one chink in the alien’s armour.
The Darkest Hour is aimed squarely at a teen audience who would rather be presented with characters with whom they can identify than with a believable, watertight plot. By its own modest ambitions, then, it can be argued that the movie is something of a success. It provides a reasonably gripping adventure story, and shows a few minor deviations from the template, particularly in the way it manages to humanise a character who initially looks like being a by-the-numbers villain. Sadly, this is the only attempt at depth that writer John Spaihts (who went on to write Prometheus) makes with regard to his characters.
The Darkest Hour ends with Sean heroically stabbing at a point on the map spread out before him and manfully declaring ‘This is how it starts!’ immediately filling us with dread that a sequel might be in the pipeline. Let’s hope that, should that darkest hour ever arrive, Sean’s and Natalie’s experiences against the aliens will have made them more interesting people.