The Darkest Hour has already given itself away as a bad film, mostly due to getting little press coverage and getting a Christmas Day opening as a means of fading into the ether. All of that is meant to cover up how bad this film it is, and boy does it reek of awful! The movie plays more like a pilot for a potential television show with four soulless performances, a script that has so much awful dialogue the characters rapidly spit it out, and jumps in logic that tout how much the director supposedly knows, but opening the door for a mess of plot holes.
Best friends Sean (Emile Hirsch) and Ben (Max Minghella) are in Moscow on business when they meet Natalie (Olivia Thirlby) and Anne (Rachael Taylor). A night of fun turns into disaster when mysterious aliens composed of electricity come down from the sky and start decimating the city. As the four struggle to survive, they have to discover how to beat an enemy that they can’t see.
The only and I do mean only, praise I can give this movie is using Moscow as the setting. Most people believe Russia is still stuck in 1980 and this film shows that’s not true. It does showcase the gorgeous buildings but also highlights how trendy Moscow has become with a slew of nightclubs and big businesses. There’s even an obligatory shot of Starbucks just to show you that people in Russia aren’t still in bread lines and talking on cell phones the size of home computers.
Other than a weak attempt at upping Russian tourism, The Darkest Hour is a cheap and lazy sci-fi movie that attempts to take a stab at B-movie fun but failing utterly. With an estimated budget of $44 million I can only assume that went to the actors because the special effects are laughably outdated. They look like something from 2002, very boxy and goofy. The aliens in question look like if a Pokemon was converted from animation to CGI, just bizarre and stupid. On top of that the slew of Russian actors utilized come off unrehearsed, especially survivor Vika (Veronika Ozerova). This is the actress’s first film and it shows from her stilted delivery and struggles to say the few lines in English she has. The others actors are just lifeless with Emile Hirsch being the only actor who tries to have some fun with what little material he has. He’s the typical screw-up character so he gets the humorous lines which he says with a Jack Nicholson-esque twang. You can tell he’s trying to at least get through the day. Minghella plays the straight man and looks perpetually bored while Rachael Taylor continues to play the pretty girl in distress only this time she’s the whiner that you’ll be happy to see die. Thirlby is sweet but that’s all. She just waits around for others to do something and looks scared. It’s like none of these actors had a full script to work with and were just doing what they assumed they would do in that situation, ie stand around. The camera lingers a few times past the recommended shot and you can tell the actors don’t know if they should stay where they are, or if they’re meant to improvise.
A lot of this can be attributed to how cheap this production looks. The film plays like a bad television pilot with transitions that are almost meant to indicate commercial breaks. They’re simple fade ins to the character cutting off a few minutes of walking time, as if a commercial is meant to come in. The writing is just as stock with lines like “We don’t even know if they can see or hear.” “But we know they kill!” Most of the lines are just yelled by the characters with every situation having all the characters deliver one line. A scene of them going into the decimation of a club has them entering and saying one line a piece, as if it’s an introduction to their character! The characters can’t revel in silence and let the horror speak for it; they all constantly talk over each other to yell at the audience what they’re supposed to feel. There’s only so many times you can hear, “Oh my God,” “What are we going to do,” “Do you have a plan,” before you just want to scream for them all to shut up!
The Darkest Hour should be re-titled The Dumbest Hour. The acting, script, and direction are all laughable but on top of that the director assumes everyone knows science to boot! The aliens are apparently attracted to electricity which we supposedly carry because Sean says “It’s our bioelectrical pulses….let’s go.” If you’re like me and don’t know much about bioelectrical pulses, you’ll be a tad lost! That’s just a taste of how pointless and stupid this movie is. Skip it and watch any other alien invasion picture and you’ll feel better.