An intriguing sci-fi concept with terrific potential gets wasted, then forgotten completely, amidst a sea of bad dialogue and run-of-the-mill special effects.
Director Chris Gorak has worked as an art director for almost two decades, alongside Terry Gilliam (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), David Fincher (Fight Club), the Coen Brothers (The Man Who Wasn’t There) and Steven Spielberg (Minority Report). Yet being adjacent to greatness does not make one great, and in his first major release as a director, Gorak has decided to dip his toes into the waters of epic globe-smashing sci-fi. Unfortunately, the lessons of the masters appear to have been lost on him.
Sean (Emile Hirsch) and Ben (Max Minghella) are a couple of hotshot entrepreneurs keen to make it big with their latest social networking tool and major deal in Moscow. They arrive to find that business partner Skylar (Joel Kinnaman) has sold them out, so they drown their sorrows at a local nightclub where they meet Natalie (Olivia Thirlby) and Anne (Rachael Taylor). All of this doesn’t matter when the power goes out, and mysterious lights appear in the sky. It turns out to be invisible electromagnetic alien invaders with a penchant for turning Earth’s citizens to dust. As the few remaining survivors in the city, it is now a matter of making out alive – if there is anywhere to go to.
The Darkest Hour starts promisingly enough, with the classic sci-fi premise of the last five people standing running around a city devoid of human life avoiding the nasties. At its best, it is reminiscent of the Omega Man, I Am Legend or even George Romero’s zombie films, but it isn’t at its finest hour for long. Unlike those films, which at least adhered to a sense of narrative structure after the initial setup, Jon Spaihts’ script more or less lets everybody decide their own fate after the first scenes. It is almost as though Spaihts and Gorak knew how they wanted to start the film, but had no idea where to go from there, so they simply let the cast and effects department make it up as they went along. In the case of the latter, there are some occasionally big uses of the 3D imagery, but the creatures are invisible and their few appearances will make you wish they stayed that way.
Emile Hirsch very rarely slums it these days, and while he gives it his all, The Darkest Hour feels little more than a cyncial marketing tool couched in a McFlurry of bad dialogue. It is as though the script was actually written in English, Google translated into Russian and then fed back out the other side as a script. The rest of the characters are simply Happy Meals for the beasties, and while there is some good bonding between Olivia Thirlby, Hirsch and Australia’s Rachael Taylor in particular, this is soon forgotten in the race to the bottom. The most concerning thing about all of this is that scribe Spaiht has also co-penned one of the most hotly anticipated films of the year, Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. This doesn’t bode well, but we can only hope his mind was on better things when writing this sub-par effort.