out of Five
Running time: 89
Dismal, poorly directed and badly thought-out sci-fi thriller that quickly squanders its intriguing premise in favour of under-developed characters running and shouting for 90 minutes.
What's it all about?
Directed by Chris Gorak (whose Right At Your Door was a promising sci-fi debut), The Darkest Hour stars Max Minghella and Emile Hirsch as Ben and Sean, two best friends and internet entrepreneurs who come to Moscow to pitch their idea, only to have it stolen from under them. Seeking solace in a happening nightclub, the boys meet cute tourists Natalie (Olivia Thirlby) and Anne (Rachael Taylor), but their introductions are rudely cut short when light-pulsing aliens descend on the city and start evaporating people.
Hiding out in a store-room for a couple of days, the group emerge to find that the aliens have killed almost everyone in the city and that Moscow is now without electrical power. In desperation, they attempt to leave without getting zapped, but they're unprepared for the fact that the aliens are essentially invisible to humans and their presence is only indicated by electrical items flaring to life when they're nearby.
The Darkest Hour starts promisingly, with an attractive, potentially likeable cast and a strong premise – the nightclub attack is genuinely scary and the shift from the beauty of the aliens arriving (a light show in the sky as they fall to earth) to the terror of the attack is nicely handled. However, after that, the film completely runs out of ideas, resorting to trite, frequently laughable dialogue (Thirlby's backstory involving her mother is utterly ridiculous) and action scenes that essentially amount to running around and shouting.
The main problem is that the characters are badly under-developed, so that, although the film at least has the balls to kill some of them off, it's impossible to actually care when it does (there's no chemistry between any of the leads either, so the romance angle falls flat too). Similarly, the aliens themselves are poorly conceived and end up looking like cheap video game creatures, especially when they're dead.
The film has some bigger problems too, particularly when it comes to the Russian characters that the main cast eventually team up with. They're so gosh-darn heroic that at one point you genuinely start to wonder if the whole film isn't supposed to be pro-Russian propaganda and that, having been the villains in Hollywood movies for so long, that stereotype is now getting a long-overdue revamp. On top of all that, the 3D effects are barely noticeable and entirely unnecessary.
The Darkest Hour is a thoroughly disappointing sci-fi thriller that neglects to deliver any actual thrills. One to avoid.