REVIEW: The Darkest Hour
Since alien invasion films are nothing new, it all comes down to the execution. Having a vision of the characters and the nature of the attack will make or break a film and in the case of The Darkest Hour, it all falls flat. There’s a distinct lack of innovation to the set up or characters although director Chris Gorak and producer Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) get credit for setting the movie in Russia which at least gave us different visuals. But, the film then centers on a quartet of English-speaking foreigners with not enough of a fish out of water vibe to make it interesting. The movie, released in 3-D on Christmas Day was quickly dismissed by critics and audiences for being anything but a nice present.
The movie, out now from Summit Home Entertainment, focuses on Sean (Emile Hirsch) and Ben (Max Minghella), two Americans in Russia to sell a social networking concept only to discover they’ve been ripped off. Drowning their sorrows at a bar, they meet up with Natalie (Olivia Thirlby) and Anne (Rachael Taylor), and just then, the invasion begins. It takes a while to determine the full scope of the problems thank to an EMP knocking out all the electronics. There’s panic, there’s screaming and shouting and oh yeah, invisible alien attackers who can disintegrate you with a touch.
It becomes a survival and resistance story so the Russian locale is merely a backdrop that serves to complicate our protagonists’ journey but that’s about it. There really is weak writing from Jon Spaihts so the characters are interchangeable and not interesting enough for the audience to care who lives or dies. This could have been a really interesting character study fueled by adrenaline and special effects but instead, it has a sameness that spoils the story. While watchable, it’s just not special enough to seek out, making this a perfect cable time-killer.
There are some nice visuals, some good moments, some actual thinking going on as they figure out how to track the unseen foes and go on to build a Faraday Box to protect themselves. But it’s too little scattered over a poorly-paced 89 minutes. On the other hand, the movie looks and sounds terrific on Blu-ray. If as much effort went into the story as it did on the transfer we’d all have it on our buy lists.
As much as the film has a been there, done that feel, so do the extras accompanying the DVD. There’s Gorak providing some nice commentary about the film’s troubled production, shooting in Russia and so on. You also have a featurette “Survivors” (8:10) looking at the rest of the people in Russia as a supplement to the feature; “The Darkest Hour: Visualizing an Invasion” (12:09) which is the obligatory piece on the visual effects; and a few Deleted and Extended Scenes (4:48), with optional director commentary.