The Darkest Hour (2012)

The title is a reference to the age old cliché of “the darkest hour is just before the dawn”, which is relatively apt considering how clichéd this alien invasion flick really is. Enjoyable fun, with some superb images, but tragically overwrought, predictable and the aliens – once they’re revealed – are ridiculous. Silly, clichéd, fun – but very forgettable.

Internet entrepreneurs Sean (Emile Hirsch) and Ben (Max Minghella) are having a tough time in Moscow. Their sensational website idea has been brutally nicked by clichéd slimy guy Skyler (Joel Kinnaman) and their dreams instantly shattered. The solution? Get drunk!

The American duo head into a Russian club and bump into Natalie (Olivia Thirlby) and Anne (Rachael Taylor), another couple of statesiders kicking back in Russia. Naturally Skyler is there too – as Moscow is a very small place, obviously – and their evening goes from sad to horrendous when… ALIENS ATTACK!

This is not Skyline, despite the following description: weird lights suddenly come down from the sky and foolishly curious civilians get sucked up and obliterated by invisible aliens. This is not Skyline, this is The Darkest Hour, and it’s different because of two things:

1.) It’s set in Russia

2.) It’s not entirely without merit

Where Skyline failed was in character & purpose (a group of absolute wankers hide in building. Credits roll) and although The Darkest Hour doesn’t exactly excel in these things, it just felt less arrogant and hateful.

The Darkest Hour focuses on our lost Americans, stuck in a country they don’t understand, being hunted by things they cannot see. It’s a compelling idea but also very disconnected. The plot is basically this: go from Point A to Point B, do something, move from Point B to Point C, do something else, go from Point C to Point D etc… etc… and it quickly becomes tiresome.

How are the aliens? Well, at first they’re amazing; wisps of energy, lighting up anything electrical nearby, literally obliterating anything organic by touch. They’re incredibly dangerous, although a little purposeless and meandering. Mid-way into The Darkest Hour we discover there is something more to these extraterrestrials and it’s… disappointing (to say the least). The aliens are laughably bad and simply ridiculous. Seriously, someone explain them to me. Please. I mean, really? What’re they made of? Coal?

Is it well acted? Yes and no. Despite being an exceptional actor (see Into the Wild or Alpha Dog) Emile Hirsch merely happens in this movie, nothing more. He simply isn’t compelling. It is only when they join with some Russians (way into the film) that The Darkest Hour becomes genuinely interesting.

Veronika Ozerova is probably the best thing in The Darkest Hour, as Russian teenager Vika. Without a single film credit to her name, Ozerova out-acts the majority of the cast, who wring out every single scene with cloying sentimentality and false bravado. If the film had focused on Vika instead of a group of lost Americans, it would’ve been a lot sharper.

The main surprise is finding out who the creators of The Darkest Hour are. The direction is so rudimentary and the script so epically po-faced I had expected the credits to land in the laps of someone like Nelson McCormack or J.S. Cardone. But this is directed by Chris Gorak, the man behind the superbly slow-burning dirty-bomb thriller Right at Your Door, and scriptwriter Jon Spaihts who – perhaps worryingly – has co-written the Alien-prequel Prometheus! Their work here is not diabolical; it’s just mediocre and unoriginal.

Overall The Darkest Hour is entertaining, silly, awkward and ambling. There are moments of genius and it peaks with the introduction of the Russian characters, yet for all its build up and thrills this is a soulless alien-invasion flick with some awfully absurd aliens. The Darkest Hour is good fun and totally ridiculous, but sadly forgettable.

Rating: ★★★★½☆☆☆☆☆

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