The Darkest Hour (2011)
As Han Solo once muttered, "they're chewing on the power converters."
I'm almost certain that Timur Bekmambetov works for the New Millennium Russian Tourist Board. He makes the country look so inviting compared to all of that grimy cold war queueing for bread. Usually, he does it with a fair degree of style too. Here, not so much, but then again, he's not directing and this isn't either Nightwatch nor Daywatch. This is him in Producer mode, perhaps preferring to not get embroiled in something that is ever so slightly short on kudos. Before the film is five minutes old, The Darkest Hour begins to look like a bastard lovechild of Skyline and Final Destination, only with fewer table manners and more things to bitch about.
This is Chris Gorak's piece, an accomplished and renowned Art Director, yet only helming one other movie of note, that being the surprisingly intriguing Right At Your Door in 2006. The similarities between The Darkest Hour and Right At Your Door are here for anyone to recognise if they have seen both films and it clear that Gorak is taking a Bekmambetov 101. All of the staples are here. There is plenty for the eye candy enthusiasts, though not in the form of the lady parts. Those familiar with this crash course will know all about the cold, washed out environments, the gravity defying physicals and the jaw-dropping set pieces. Now, Gorak's effort may not enjoy quite all of these traits, but it is clear there has been a guiding hand in the production values.
The premise is a simple one, four tourists end up stuck in Moscow when the alien invasion arrives. These aliens are invisible and gorge on energy anywhere it can be found. This energy can be a varied as a car battery to unfortunately and conveniently placed humans, all being transformed into clouds of dust at the merest touch. This particular brand of apparently unstoppable force has to have a weakness. Well, they can't see through glass. Must have been a bugger when navigating the mothership in for a landing, eh?
So begins an escape across a war ravaged Moscow, delighting the audience with some beautiful but terrible concepts of the Russian capital in a time of catastrophic trauma. Do we care for these characters? Well not really. We have all seen this type of thing many, many times before, often with more admirable friendlies who enjoy a better script to work with. There is little to here to engage the audience with on a personal level, so you are left just looking at the lovely effects, the frankly stunning views and very little else.
I'll avoid the temptation to remark on the acting. The script may be bad, but this is accentuated by the delivery. If this was an embryonic plot to get Emile Hirsch some action hero chops, then it didn't pay off. This is awful stuff from an already established leading man that can do (and has done) so much better.
In short (and it's honestly better that I am) this has little going for it, aside from the impressive visuals. See this only if you want to sit in the cinema with nothing to do but gawp. Turn your brain off at the door.