‘The Darkest Hour’ Review
A cool premise buried by a disappointing pretty much everything else.
It seems like every year we need to have a bad alien invasion movie in cinemas. Last year, we have the truly atrocious ‘Skyline’ in cinemas. This year, we get ‘The Darkest Hour’ which has invisible aliens attacking Moscow. And despite some cool ideas at its core, its limp storytelling that borrows from much better movies as well as zero character development makes for a disappointing film.
The film follows two young American entrepreneurs (Emily Hirsch, Max Minghella) who visit Moscow for a botched business deal and bump into two young American tourists (Rachael Taylor, Olivia Thirby) in a club for a fun night. But suddenly the lights go out and they realize that Moscow is being attacked by invisible aliens that comprise of a lethal force of energy which gives them the power to obliterate humans into dust without being seen. Stranded in a foreign city, the group struggles to survive and figure out the enemy while trying to find a way to reach back home.
While most alien invasion movies look trite and derivative right from the outset, ‘The Darkest Hour’ actually has two very unique hooks going in its favor. The first one is the aliens themselves – never has an alien invasion movie had aliens that cannot be seen. While it sound stupid when you first hear of it, it actually leads to some inventive death scenes. Since the aliens are made up of energy, the death involves the victims to just obliterate into dust rather than dying the traditional death. It’s definitely a new spin on the genre and spices things up. The second is the fact that the film is set in Moscow, while most invasion movies are set in the US or more popular countries like Britain. The Moscow setting also ends up making the film feel unique. Sadly, that’s the end of anything new that the movie has to offer.
There’s a very limp and rote screenplay at the root here that doesn’t even try to make anything more than a generic action thriller that never really feels different from the tons of movies that came before it. We start off with a brisk introduction to the characters just before the aliens attack and while their attack is intriguing to watch at first, the novelty of the new type of aliens wears off by the end of the first act. And that’s where the film fails to offer anything else. It follows the same formula of every other survival thriller before it with a gang of survivors trying to find some safety. It’s taken from much better films like ‘28 Days Later’, ‘I am Legend’ and the likes. Think any movie of the sub-genre and ‘The Darkest Hour’ doesn’t do anything much different. In fact, the screenplay here is much stupider. The very first thing that the characters decide to do in the wake of a deadly alien attack that wiped out Moscow is head halfway across the city in full view all the way to … the American Embassy. Didn’t the first ten seconds of them venturing outdoors and seeing the entire city almost razed down hint them that the Embassy wouldn’t be vulnerable to such an attack? Add to the fact that there is no aim to the plot here other than them walking around before they have to suddenly evade some aliens, before they start walking again. Soon enough, a very superficial objective arrives in terms of a submarine which makes absolutely no sense at all if you think about it. There are points where the characters are perfectly safe with people much more skilled than them, but insist that they cannot stay because this is not their home. Because of course, patriotism is the perfect reason to abandon safety and walk right into streets infested with invisible aliens determined to hunt you down.
Add to that the fact that the characters are unlikable and you never care about them at any point. The script takes zero initiative to give the characters any sort of personality or gives us a reason to care about them. They all sound the same and frankly are a bunch of hollow douchebags that aren’t particularly the sharpest minds. So when some character deaths happen and the film expects you to get affected, the maximum that you do is look at how cool the death scene was rather than the fact that a character just died. Even the dialogue is corny to say the least, with examples like this: ‘The team work makes the dream work’. Also, the film doesn’t have a proper ending and it ends on the characters figuring out how to defeat the aliens rather than us actually seeing them do so. They never bother to tell you why the aliens attacked or what they really are. Because of course, that’s all unimportant in the wake of how cool they look. Plus, the final scenes are definitely a set up for a sequel that is never going to be made.
Aside from that, there are a few decent scenes here and there that are always watchable. The movie is never outright terrible, which certainly shouldn’t be a case for seeing it but that itself is sometimes too much to ask. The hide and seek sequences with the aliens are cool at first but become repetitive as they go on. Emily Hirsch is a good actor who keeps the film afloat even when his character is a stereotype rather than a human being. Some fun supporting characters pop into the film in the second half that keep things interesting, but never enough to compensate for the flaws in the film clearly. The 3-D, even though the film was shot in the format, was pretty disappointing and the movie looked fine without the glasses on. Another thing to note is how sloppy some of the direction is and sometimes the locations and angles look off even though the movie is supposedly shot on location. It has a lot of moments where you feel it’s been done on green-screen.
‘The Darkest Hour’ is another disappointing entry to the alien invasion sub-genre which has now officially tired itself out unless something revolutionary arrives. Only someone starved for some junk-food basic thrills should look this way, but the weak screenplay and story here will probably still have you coming out unsatisfied.