Friday 3 August 2012


This Moscow set, Timur Bekmambatov produced sci-fi thriller is out now on DVD and Blu-ray. Critically mauled on its theatrical release, were the detractors wrong?

Travelling to Moscow to launch an exclusive social network (an oddly specific case of typecasting for The Social Network's Max Minghella), two young Americans find themselves enjoying the nightlife with two tourist girls they meet in a bar; that is until the night takes a turn for the worse when all the power in the city cuts out and strange otherworldly lights start to descend from the sky. Working their way through the city to find a safe haven, the group must fight against an invisible enemy trying to harvest all of the world's energy.

Written by Jon Spaihts who also contributed to the screenplay for Prometheus, The Darkest Hour is a muddled, uneven sci-fi that doesn't know how to expand on a good idea when it's got one. Reeking of a film that's had its budget slashed halfway through production, the special effects range from the impressive to the terrible, the thrilling evaporation sequences (like throwing a barbie in a blender) are tempered by some crudely rendered POV shots.

Produced by Timur Bekmambatov, as you'd expect for a film set entirely in Moscow but made with Hollywood money, the main cast consists of three Americans, an Aussie and a Swede. Aimed squarely at an American teen audience, the story takes a back seat to providing spectacle (which the film does manage on occasion), in glorious 3D. Actually, the DVD version comes in 2D only, and it wasn't until I'd finished watching the film that I remembered it had been given the 3D treatment for its theatrical release, as there's nothing in the film that would have benefitted from an extra dimension. The script, maybe.

The cast of young beautiful people do their best to look scared at an alien invasion that they can't see, but only Joel Kinneman's (soon to be the new RoboCop) role as a slimy Swede has anything about it. When the somewhat weasily Kinneman, not dissimilar to a brooding Peter Crouch, muscles in on Emile and Max's business deal and gets away with it, I couldn't help but feel fair play to him.

The DVD cover may be apeing I Am Legend but this is a unique and odd apocalypse whose initially bright concept soon becomes dull. With a script that's full of duff science ("I bet they sense our bio-electro magnetic shit." "That almost makes sense."), my guess is that they blew their budget on the earlier scenes (coincidentally 'the darkest hour'), as when the film hits daylight in its final act the effects reach the embarrassingly poor. A mess of a movie not helped by so little explanation about what is going on, this won't be getting the sequel the ending hopes for.


Special Features:
+ Scene Selection

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