Thursday, May 30, 2013

Review: The Darkest Hour (2011)

Review by Disgruntled Monkey

Director: Chris Gorak
Starring: Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby and Max Minghella
Writer: Jon Spaihts

As the film begins we are introduced to the two main characters - Sean and Ben - and almost instantly the vibe I’m feeling from Sean is ‘class one arsehole’. Added to this feeling is unbelievably rife product placement (I can’t help but want a McDonalds Quarter Pounder after the intro) and I have to ask myself, ‘with such a bad start we can pretty much seal this movie up and send it to the garbage heap, right?’

Well, not exactly. Low and behold Sean actually makes a decent character and essentially uses his dickish behaviour to mask his insecurities. Wow! Character depth! Also, once the aliens descend the product placement thankfully gets pushed to the rear. The film spends some time attempting to make up for the shitty start and funnily enough, becomes not only a watchable movie but is quite fun in some places.

You get a very mixed bag with this lot of characters. A few main characters get some great development while others are leashed to clich├ęs and are exceptionally underdeveloped. Characterisation varies, with some making understandable decisions only to follow up with an exceedingly boneheaded play. Like the characters, the acting is hit and miss; thankfully Emile Hirsch does a decent job as Sean so we have someone to get behind.

I think the bigger problem with the characterisation is that halfway through the proceedings we are introduced to some Russian denizens who are hands down the most interesting characters in the film. Every part of me wanted to learn more about them and honestly, I might have preferred the movie being solely dedicated to them.

The aliens where backed by a very interesting idea and this created a uniqueness in the storytelling. Also making the aliens harder to see during the day was excellent in flipping the idea that night is the more dangerous time. Some of the special effects are pretty great but it seems the budget could only stretch so far, sometimes the most effective points in the movie are when lights flickering are the extent of the effects.

Ashes to ashes. We fall down.
If this was the full range of problems then it might have come off as a decent little film, however the true criminal in this flick is the editing. Scenes simply end and a mass amount of time has passed at the beginning of the next. It’s ridiculous and really does hurt the flow of the movie. The Darkest Hour really does move at a fast pace and it feels like two stories crammed into one. The ending also suggests that this was meant to be a bigger series of films.

In the end the pacing and the editing turned this into a movie that comes across as half finished. There are some great ideas yet in the end it all falls apart. Product placement suggests a desperate need for funding and the way the quality of the movie shifts back and forth on numerous factors also suggests a willingness to cut corners. If you’re desperate for science fiction there are some good ideas, however it doesn’t amount to much of a ride.

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