Out now from 20th Century Fox
Sci-Fi Horror with a script that doesn’t match the effects.
The Darkest Hour is a perfect example of something that looks appealing from the trailer, but then you realise you’ve seen all the best bits already. It’s a dangerous game to play, as it sets you up for one hell of a let-down.
When software designers Ben (Max Minghella from The Social Network) and Sean (Speed Racer’s Emile Hirsch) find themselves stranded in Moscow after their idea for a new social network has been nicked by Swede Skylar (Joel Kinnaman), they drown their sorrows in a local nightclub and hook up with travellers Natalie (Olivia Thirlby) and Anne (Rachael Taylor), thinking they might get lucky in another way. Sadly, the end of the world puts paid to their plans when invisible electrical aliens rain down and start frying people.
After hiding away in a storeroom with Skylar for a few days, they venture out – walking up one street and down another, finding the US Embassy deserted and their way out cut off. After some close calls, they come across young street-smart girl Vika (Veronika Vernadskaya) and mad scientist Sergei (Dato Bakhtadze), who has developed a rifle that can break down the aliens’ shields. But is it too little, too late?
With a beginning that tries too hard to convince you of the hipness of its two male leads, you’ll finally perk up when the aliens arrive – in an impressive first contact scene involving Russian cops. Unfortunately, the bits in-between the encounters with the aliens are just as boring as the start, and you find yourself so numb you don’t care what happens to any of the characters. It all concludes in a nonsensical finale involving Mad Max-style Russian locals – who have apparently reverted back to the middle ages in just a few short days – and a submarine.
There are certainly some interesting ideas here, like the light bulb early warning system, but these are soon swept aside in favour of lots of running, lots of shouting, and people disintegrating with gay abandon. And so little is made of the Moscow setting, it feels simply shoe-horned in because it’s a US/Russian co-production. At least the effects – courtesy of Night Watch and Day Watch’s Timur Bekmanbetov – are worth a look, but probably not an hour and a half of your time. Catch up with Falling Skies instead, which does alien invasion and character development on a shoestring much better. Disappointing.
Independence Day and War of the Worlds wannabe that can’t hope to compete with its predecessors.