Theatrical Review: The Darkest Hour

Sean and Ben are two young hotshot software developers hoping to make a killing with a new internet venture with Russian financing.  After getting shot down by a rival, they hope to drown their sorrows in a trendy nightclub where they meet a couple of girls also traveling abroad, Natalie and Anne.  They’re all having a great time and then a huge blackout occurs.  Everyone in the bar assembles to the outside streets where they see something like a Northern Lights effect over the sky dropping globes of light to the ground.  It looks beautiful but it’s quickly revealed that they’re very deadly and in actuality… are aliens from space here to strip mine the planet!!

That’s the premise to The Darkest Hour the second movie from director Chris Gorak (Gorak’s first movie was called Right At Your Door which unfortunately I haven’t seen and prior to that he’s served as Art Director and Production Designer for a number of films including Minority Report, Fight Club and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas).  One of the film’s producers is Timur Bekmambetov who’s better known for his directorial efforts; the Russian-made Night Watch and Day Watch, and the comic book adaptation of Wanted. With a pedigree like that and the promotion this has been getting, one would certainly hope for the best…

… keep hoping (said by my inner smart-ass).  Actually, it’s not as bad as that would imply.  There’s some good ideas here, a terrific locale (you don’t necessarily think of Moscow as a location for an alien invasion film) and an amiable cast.  The visual effects are serviceable as is the 3D (though more for depth than anything else).  Where this falters is with a disjointed second act that gets pretty flat in it’s pacing, some pretty listless bits of dialogue and some acts by some of the main characters that are just stupid but move the story forward.  It’s all of the hallmarks of a “B” movie and there’s nothing wrong with that necessarily.  But considering the major push this film has been given and the fact that it’s been released right alongside new movies from Tom Cruise, David Fincher and two releases from Steven Spielberg, it has a lot to live up to.  I can certainly understand a studio wanting to give their film a major push and make as much money as they can, but there’s a part of me which thinks that The Darkest Hour could’ve been better served as a smaller release and not competing with bigger films but acting more as a bit of a palette cleanser.

Emile Hirsch plays Sean and Max Minghella plays Ben and they’re certainly likable enough and have good chemistry together (which is something that I couldn’t say about the leads in the movie this most resembles, Skyline)  Olivia Thirlby plays Natalie and Rachel Taylor plays Anne and unfortunately for them they’re the two major characters who get to do the stupid things that drive this forward.  Of course that’s not really their fault, but other than that they don’t really do anything that special or memorable and really just the “girls” of this film.

The Darkest Hour
ends with the idea that this could be the first in a series of films and I almost hope that happens just because there are some good ideas here that could certainly be expanded upon.  I don’t expect that to happen though considering the film’s poor box office performance domestically.  As it is, The Darkest Hour is pretty lackluster compared to what it’s being released against right now and I can only really recommend to those that will appreciate it’s “B” movie aspects.

By Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

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