After all the season’s festivities, I figured we should go see a film that has been released Christmas day. I mean, everyone appeared to be piling up to see Spielberg’s “War Horse” (a film I will maybe see later) so we wanted to go see a film that required little attention with a relatively small crowd; and so it was Timur Bekmambetov’s produced “The Darkest Hour” that fit the bill. Directed by Chris Gorak, the film is about another alien invasion that threatens humanity’s existence, but the good thing about it is, it does not happen in L.A. or in New York again….
Produced with an American cast and a supporting cast of Russians, the film takes us with young striving internet businessmen Sean and Ben (Emile Hirsch and Max Minghella respectively) who fly to Russia to pitch an idea for a new travel site. But when the business deal doesn’t go as they wished, the two hit a local Moscow nightclub where they meet American tourists Natalie (Olivia Thirlby) and Anne (Rachael Taylor). But their evening soon turns into something horrifying as strange lights descend from the sky, reducing anything and anyone to ask upon contact. Joined by a Swedish businessman (Joel Kinnaman), the youths must emerge from their hiding spot and try to find a way out of Moscow; with the aid of the locals, they must find a way to fight back and survive….
One thing that attracted me to the film was the involvement of Russian director Timur Bekmambetov who is responsible for Hollywood hits such as “9” and “Wanted”, he had made his mark in the Russian films “Nightwatch” and “Daywatch” and so, I wanted to see what he could do with an alien invasion premise. “The Darkest Hour” does have some good intentions going for it, I liked the idea of seeing an invasion from a Russian backdrop. I guess what does happen with the film is its lack of follow through had somehow reduced the script by Leslie Bohem and M.T. Ahern into a ‘by the numbers’ kind of storytelling.
The film does start off easily enough; it has a simple set up as we get to see the Americans go about their goals and pleasure along Moscow. There have been some power outages that seemed to give off a warning, and I did see several red flags as the story seems to have already missed certain areas to develop. Ok, perhaps, this was a film that was intended to focus on a small group of folks, and director Chris Gorak does manage to grab my attention with some displays of simple light shows and special effects that somehow gave the indication that the city was being invaded. I did like the way Gorak executed the horror of an unseen enemy; Gorak makes the invaders quite visible with the way they reduced anyone to ash and how bullets proved ineffective against them. All this with some light effects that resembled the ones in “Spirits Within”, there was a ghostly menacing aura about it that gave the invaders the shadow of mystery. Yes, I enjoyed its unknown set up, until our protagonist left their hiding place…
I wasn’t sure what the script's intentions were from that point, I mean, I could tell that it was going for a “28 Days Later” effect as we got to see the ruins of Moscow. There are some disturbing imagery, as the aftermath of the unknown attack became visible. Having the thought of hopelessness and isolation can be an effective play for suspense, but it seems like the more we get to learn about the aliens, the less interesting the story becomes. It also hurts the screenplay when the protagonists were so underdeveloped that you could tell who would die first and who would die after, it was all a matter of “Ten Little Indians” until they hook up with some local survivors (cast made up of Russian actors Gosha Kutsenko, Veronika Ozarova, Nikolai Yefremov, Arthur Smolyaninov and Georgian actor Dato Bakhtadze) then we get to see some action that I thought would pick it up.
Then the film falters further, as the action was there but it fails to generate any feeling of suspense and intensity. It was pretty routine from there, as the group goes for the hope of being rescued or finding others to fight with. What we saw were more of the same, people reduced to ash as they tried to fight them off. I did like the idea of homemade ingenuity that seems to save the day, it was a refreshing take from the usual scientific theories and things that drive an alien invasion movie. The film’s science is pretty simple and easily understood, as with the reasons of the invasion itself; it was routine and pretty unimaginative. The 3D effects were also laughable and the film was clearly not meant for that added 'zing' (I mean a building collapsing should've looked a lot more awesome in 3D, but it didn't)
Round all those up and the "not-so good" acting and clichéd characters, I got exactly what I expected. A routine alien invasion movie with clichéd characterization, predictable plot and monotonous execution that I almost wished that I went to see another film in the theaters. I cannot really knock it off for being an average horror-alien-invasion flick since it was obviously meant to be as such and never meant to be anything else. I suppose while I did not like the film, I could see how it would be a good diversion or a film to recover from the booze, food and holiday celebrations; it did not require much thought and a good film to nurse a hangover. Gosh, perhaps I shouldn't write when I am recovering from a hangover...
Rental [2 Out of 5 Stars]
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