Title: The Darkest Hour (2011)
Director: Chris Gorak
Cast: Emile Hirsch, Max Minghella, Olivia Thirlby, Rachel Taylor
The Darkest Hour is the kind of film I watch for amusement purposes only. Going into it I knew it wasn’t going to be the most thought provoking, deepest or smartest film I’d ever seen, I’d read a couple of reviews, I had a general idea of the kind of movie I could expect. But still, Im a sucker for sci-fi and an even bigger sucker for post apocalyptic films, so I decided to give this one a watch. At the very least I expected a brisk, fast paced flick with cool effects and some action. If you ask me, The Darkest Hour is an empty film every step of the way, as most alien invasion films are. The formula behind these movies is simple: monsters appear, humans run, humans find a way to kill the creatures, humans fight back, monsters die and for all intents and purposes, this is exactly the kind of film The Darkest Hour is. But a film can stick to this formula and still entertain, the question remained, would The Darkest Hour at least do that?
In The Darkest Hour we meet a pair of computer programmers that have just created the newest website that’s apparently going to take over the world. They’ve presented their idea to a group of Russian businessmen and are ready for their first official meeting. Problem is that once they get there they find out they are no longer needed, some douche bag stole their idea and is now presenting it as his own. So as they ponder how to counter attack this humongous backstabbing, they decide to go out on a drinking spree, to see if they can hook up with some Russian girls. Low and behold they end up hooking up with a pair of American girls! Things are looking up until suddenly these strange yellow lights start dropping from the heavens! Upon closer examination they learn that these strange lights are actually energy absorbing aliens! They turn humans into ashes and they mean to invade our planet!
So yeah, nothing really new here; basically, if you’ve seen films like Independence Day (1996) and Skyline (2010), then you’ve seen The Darkest Hour. The ‘new’ element that the film brings to the table is that it was shot entirely in
which instantly gives the film a unique look, especially when it comes to the
Russian architecture. Another unique thing it has going for it is the concept
of the aliens being invisible to the naked eye. I thought this was a nifty
concept that adds a bit of suspense to the proceedings because you’re never
really sure where the aliens might be coming from, at the same time the
invisible aliens concept might also seem like a good way for filmmakers to save
some money! I can hear the sales pitch to the producers: “and we don’t even
have to build no alien suits! ‘Cause get this: the aliens are invisible!” Either
way, I thought it added an interesting element in a film filled with overused
ideas. I also liked the fact that the aliens activate anything with electrical
parts in it, so if the aliens pass next to a light bulb, it turns on, if they
walk past a car, the car turns on and so forth. Another cool element…unfortunately,
that’s as far as we go in terms of originality with this movie. Russia
And speaking of the aliens, this is where I met my first real disappointment with this film. And it’s sad really because this film could have been so much better had they put a bit more of an effort with the look of the aliens. Here’s what happens with this movie: it might be walking on tired ground, and showing us situations and premises we’ve seen a gazillion times before, but it looks good, it was well shot and it has a likable bunch of characters. Hell, at least it’s not like Skyline, a film populated by a bunch of douche bags. So anyways, The Darkest Hour is not a bad looking little movie, the cast is doing a respectable job, the film even made me care for some of it’s characters! But then the aliens show how they look and you feel like you wished they had stayed invisible. Just imagine the cheapest, crappiest computer animation you could think of, and amplify it by ten. I seriously don’t understand how this director let this alien design slip by him. I thinking it was a last minute thing, a rushed job, apparently, they had no time to do something worth watching.
A pity too since I found myself mildly enjoying the flick, and to be honest, it’s not a completely horrible movie it’s just that it has a couple of hiccups here and there that scream lazy. For example, this old man that the kids meet is a genius and he’s devised a way to kill the aliens with this microwave gun he’s invented. The thing probably took the old man months to make, and he hands it to these kids so they can fight the aliens. So anyhow, at one moment the good guys figure they need another gun to fight the aliens with, so what do they do? They build an exact replica of it in something like five minutes! I was like what?? There’s lot’s of inconsistencies like that one…things that simply take you out of the movie. You’ll be asking yourself why? How? I’ll tell you why and how, lazy filmmaking! So let’s see, plot holes galore, nonsensical happenings, and a tired plot, damn, there’s many things against this one, I recommend this one only for those with a stomach for b-movies (like me) who don’t mind so many inconsistencies and are forgiving with their bad movies. I call it for what it is, but still found some enjoyment with The Darkest Hour, even if I did feel like I’d seen this flick a million times.
So this flick was directed by a guy called Chris Gorak, he’d directed only one other film before and it was another post-apocalyptic film called Right At Your Door (2006) which I started watching once but had no time to continue. I will try and re-watch it again soon, especially since I’m on a post apocalyptic kick these days. Thing about Mr. Gorak is that he’s worked with a lot of famous directors like Terry Gilliam and David Fincher, but on a technical level; as art director and production designer. Gorak has done all sorts of jobs in all kinds of films and well; I guess he decided to put all that experience to good use directing his own film. With The Darkest Hour he finally got his chance to direct a theatrical release, unfortunately, in my opinion, Mr. Gorak still has a ways to go in terms of learning what makes a good film work. Making things believable even within your fantastical context is a good way to start. Also, trying to go for a bit more originality. As it is this feels like a low budget version of Independence Day. I can watch aliens falling from the sky, but if you show it in a believable fashion I’ll believe it. That’s the magic and illusion of movies anyways, making us believe the unbelievable. But if you give me these cheesy looking aliens, then your movie goes down a couple of notches, sorry dude!