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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Darkest Hour



The Darkest Hour is a cross between 28 Days Later, Red Dawn, and... pick any lousy alien invasion movie. War of the Worlds? No, lousier. Skyline? There you go. Two twenty-something software developers from Seattle, Emile Hirsch and Max Minghella, arrive in Moscow to sell their app for "finding the hottest clubs anywhere in the world" on your cell phone. They get screwed over by their rival, Joel Kinnaman from The Killing, who plays the most cowardly Swede in Russia. While drowning their sorrows at one of those hottest clubs their app located for them, they meet fellow American Olivia Thirlby and her Australian mate Rachael Taylor.  Next thing they know, orange lights fall from the sky and people start getting incinerated by orange tendrils of energy. They're caught right in the middle of an alien invasion by invisible aliens. 

There are effective moments of dread in The Darkest Hour. When this makeshift Scooby Gang wanders out of their hidey-hole after the aliens lay waste to the city, they explore an eerily empty Moscow. Some impressive sights are offered, like an airplane crashed into a shopping mall. Yet the more questions the characters ask about the aliens, and the more answers the movie provides, the exponentially less satisfying or interesting The Darkest Hour becomes. The aliens can "see" humans by our "bio-electric shit" (the "alien's vision" looks like PlayStation 1 level graphics) but not when humans are pressed up against glass. Later, the Scooby Gang meets a Russian electrician who explains the aliens emit and are vulnerable to microwaves. Luckily, he's built a makeshift microwave rifle.

Hirsch takes it upon himself to become the alien expert and philosopher. "The aliens had a plan," he muses. "What's ours?" Answer: shut up.

When the Scoobys learn there's a Russian nuclear submarine conveniently waiting to pick up survivors in a river across Moscow, their mission becomes to make it to the sub, with the help of local Russian street toughs-turned-alien fighters. Not all of the characters survive to the end of The Darkest Hour, but by the third act, when Hirsch demands the nuclear sub not launch so he can go rescue Thirlby from the aliens, The Darkest Hour really pushes it by asking us to accept Hirsch as some kind of rifle-toting action hero. Bits and pieces of the global war against the invisible aliens are scattered throughout, with Hirsch and Thirlby teased as now part of the resistance against the aliens. "This is how it begins," snarls Hirsch as the last line in the movie. Oh no, it isn't.

Disclosure: I almost watched The Darkest Hour on Christmas Day. I was this close to doing it. Instead I watched a double feature of War Horse and The Adventures of Tintin because sanity arrived.