Who in their right mind thought making an alien invasion movie with energy sucking orange aliens was a good idea? Also, setting it in Moscow for no apparent reason and casting a string of so-so actors, each providing dull and lifeless performances. The Darkest Hour sparks no lights in the brain, instead its tedious and lacking any kinetic filmmaking. I’m not sure what studios were thinking when they gave director Chris Gorak all of their money. Even the trailers smelt of a dud, but somehow the film got made, just barely.
Sean (Emile Hirsch) and Ben (Max Minghella) are two cocky young kids who take a business trip to Moscow. After their venture proves to be a failure they decide to soak up the nightlife and have a night on the town. While clubbing they run into two ladies from America; Natalie (Olivia Thirlby) and Anne (Rachael Taylor). Things start looking up as the group parties hard and forgets about their uneventful day, but then something is seen in the night sky. Groups of bright energy masses start forming over the sky and slowly drop into the streets. An ignorant police officer attempts to club the ball of energy and is immediately turned into human ash.
These energy formations are actually an alien race that to no surprise wants to destroy the Earth. They’re hostile creatures that use energy to hunt out and eradicate any sort of threat. Sean, Ben, Natalie and Anne take refuge in the basement of a nightclub. They’re joined throughout the film by nameless people that really only serve one purpose; to die. The four chart a course for a submarine in hopes of rendezvousing with other humans, preferably American.
The Darkest Hour is one of the dullest hour and a halves in cinema history. The film consists of no real motive or goal. Our two original main characters randomly pair up with two other characters at a club to share some drinks. When the shit hits the fan they decide that the best way to survive this thing is to stick together. From that point it’s all one big guess as to what they’re trying to achieve. They learn a few crucial details about the invading alien race, but instead of using those details they continue to run around Moscow, screaming for help.
They establish that they need to find safety, so they settle on the American embassy. Once they realize how dumb of a plan that was they continue to stumble around town like a group of drunks. They meet up with two minor characters and discover that surrounding yourself in fencing material helps prevent the aliens from finding you. So, instead of staying in the caged apartment they decide to venture again into the destroyed city. Each outing brings death to the group and the film reaches a point when you stop caring about their survival and start hoping for their deaths.
Every single character is just as unlikable as the last. If people like this somehow survive an end of the world attack then we’re truly screwed. You’ve got the smart guy, the dumb guy that becomes smart and the two ladies that provide worrying for the whole bunch. A few other small character types are sprinkled in; like the nut job smart guy that discovers all of the answers and still ends up dying first and then the orphan teen that’s lost her parents, but continues to fight. Let’s not forget about the dickhead who makes every wrong decision, yet stays with the group for a good 25 minutes before they realize how much of a dickhead he is.
The Darkest Hour is chalked full of thrown away characters from other science fiction films. Everyone plays a role we’ve seen before, but they dumb it down to the simplest form. There are no character arks or self-discovery in this one, just idiots somehow surviving an alien attack.
Emile Hirsch and Olivia Thirlby are the most known actors of the bunch. Hirsch drops the ball in a leading role that could have saved the films half cooked ideas. He plays the relaxed slacker who becomes the brave and fearless hero. Hirsch is more than capable to play the role, but the writing is so unbelievably bad. Every line he spits out feels like he’s reading it directly from a made for TV script. Thirlby struggles because of the same reasoning. There really isn’t a good performance in the whole film, but the problem isn’t with the cast, but with the material (or lack thereof) that they were given. I’ve seen better written dialogue on the Syfy channel.
The aliens themselves are lacking of any real characteristics. For the majority of the film they’re just orange energy balls that evaporate anything that breathes. Their real identity is revealed towards the halfway point of the film, but the CGI is so distractingly bad. The creature design is respectable, but never given more space to interact with the characters, thus making the film feel like people running from the wind. The aliens are faceless and characterless. Their reasoning for invasion is loosely speculated, but never concrete.
It’s almost like director Chris Gorak was as surprised as us when he found out Summit Entertainment was going to pay him to make this film. He presented them with a wild concept that promised Ghostbusters styled guns and a crazy alien race unlike anything before, but when he got the go ahead to make it he forgot that every film needs a story and purpose.
The best film to compare The Darkest Hour to is Skyline. While Skyline was a bad movie, it at the very least provided a light show of special effects by a couple of guys that don’t know shit about filmmaking, but know a lot about making effects. The Darkest Hour is worse because even the special effects aren’t all that great. It’s kind of hard to mess up energy balls and a ruined city. When the aliens start to peak out of said energy balls the effects start to resemble that of a cheesy low budget Syfy channel movie.
There’s just not enough here to call The Darkest Hour an actual movie. There’s a cast that aimlessly runs around Moscow for an hour and a half, but that doesn’t justify a story. Why is this alien invasion happening and what’s the real plan here? Those are questions that are never answered. It’s not that director Chris Gorak doesn’t know how to answer these important questions, he just wasn’t aware that they needed answering in the first place. The Darkest Hour isn’t one of those films that’s so bad it’s good; it’s just a flat out bad movie.
The Darkest Hour – 4.5/10