Director: Chris Gorak
Starring: Emile Hirsch,Olivia Thirlby, Rachael Taylor
When it comes to the creative design of its aliens, The Darkest Hour opts for a less-is-more approach.
While this is often a recipe for success, unfortunately in this case, less is just plain less, as the space invaders of this surprisingly thrill-less Moscow-set thriller are invisible for much of the film. Even when you can see them, they resemble little more than floating Windows screensavers.
Working from a story that is about as derivative and unimaginative as they come, director Chris Gorak sends two internet entrepreneurs (Emile Hirsch and Max Minghella) to Moscow to finish a business deal.
When they learn that a Swedish opportunist (Joel Kinnaman) has stolen their idea, they head to a nightclub to lick their wounds and distract themselves with a couple of female tourists (Olivia Thirlby and Rachael Taylor).
There the four – and the scheming Swede – will remain for the next few days as fireballs from outer space transform most of humanity into untidy piles of ash.
But while we wait for the core cast to be reduced, we have time to ponder the pointlessness of the Moscow setting, seemingly chosen primarily to allow the filmmakers access to stock Russian stereotypes – like the crazy inventor and the band of armed-to-the-teeth resistance fighters.
It’s almost like this apocalyptic fantasy expects dramatic shots of a depopulated Red Square to make up for a flatlining screenplay and the absence of even a single compelling character. It doesn’t.
After his intriguing twist on biohazard drama in 2006’s Right at Your Door, director Gorak is slavishly obedient to genre expectations here, finding no way to enliven a by-the-numbers survival tale.
And, really, it doesn’t get any more lazy than invisible aliens.
If you’re going to tease the audience with nothing but flickers of light for three-quarters of the film, you need to have a supremely original and compelling reveal up your sleeve.
But if all you have is the equivalent of exploding garden gnomes – which is what these aliens amount to – then your problems are greater than a disposable cast and a filming style as flat as the depressingly grey colour palette.
As the film switches dramatically from survival horror to resistance fighting, you really should be rooting for the humans, but you might as well be rooting for the blobs.
Most likely, though, you’ll just be rooting for the credits.
– Dane Halpin