Darkest Hour, The (UK - DVD R2)
Marcus watches yet another sci-fi movie that just makes him want to play games
Young American entrepreneurs Sean (Emile Hirsch) and Ben (Max Minghella) travel to Moscow to sell their vaguely defined social networking software to Russian investors only to find their software has been hijacked and already sold by smarmy Swedish businessman Skyler (Joel Kinnaman). Dejected, Sean and Ben spend the evening drinking at a busy nightclub, where they meet up with a young American Natalie (Olivia Thirlby) and her Australian friend Anne (Rachael Taylor), and eventually run into Skyler. That night something cuts the power to the club, sending the group outside, where they realise all of Moscow is dark, and an aurora borealis-like apparition has appeared in the sky. Glowing lights float down to Earth, then become invisible electrical forces that disintegrate human victims and blow holes in walls. Ben, Sean, Natalie, Anne and Skylar escape the mayhem and hide in a storage room for several days, a move apparently no one else in Moscow attempted, because when they finally emerge the streets are empty of life, and covered in human ashes.
Let’s not beat around the bush. The Darkest Hour isn’t all that great. In a time where alien invasion movies aren’t setting the world on fire (well at least not off the screen anyway), this one feels like Emile Hirsch met the writer or the director at a showbiz event, they got on well and Emile committed to the idea while a little drunk, not really thinking it through. I don’t want to pin any of this on Emile as I honestly like the actor and to date films like The Girl Next Door, Into the Wild and Speed Racer have made the actor seem like he’s playing outside the system a little bit and providing great results. I wish I could say that this felt like a mis-calculation for him and he shines in amongst the badness like any good actors can do but sadly he doesn’t. His dialogue here is bloody terrible as is most of his delivery and he’s hugely unlikeable for the first hour at least.
Anyway, Emile aside (as I want to forget he’s in this flick) everything here feels like a good idea on paper but slips into the trap that most blockbusters do and feels too much like a plot for a game. Of course the game and movie markets are getting more and more of an overlap of late but a game can hide a poor screenplay and half assed set pieces under your interaction with it and The Darkest Hour doesn’t offer that opportunity so it just comes off as typical, paint by numbers and frankly dull.
Sadly everything here is underwhelming. The initial visuals of the aliens are fun (but not at all original feeling). Then we get alien vision and it's stupid and lazy. On top of the that the resistance figthers are so hammy they almost make me want to the aliens to win and at the core of all this we have a group of lead characters that a just paper thin cliches who I want to leave alone with their madcap ideas while I try my luck alone in a world wiped out by ornage lightning.
What’s more worrying is all lousy dialogue is written by screenwriter Jon Spaihts, who has also co-written Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. I’m hoping this generic science fiction way of talking does not transfer over to what is potentially the film of 2012 and hopefully Lost's Damon Lindelof's involvement will prevent the heavy clunking, spell everything out nonsense that collapses any hope this film may have had.
The transfer here looks clean and the alien electric effect can look quite bright and effective but the muted colours, comprising of a lot of army greens, greys and cool blues makes for quite a grey looking affair for the majority of this movie. Of course, it’s always apparent that this would look so much better in HD but given the soft standard definition appearance here, some of the close up detail looks pretty good. Wider shots can really suffer from feeling a little out of focus and the odd effects shot stumbles but generally speaking the transfer is pretty good with even the darker night based scenes having their fair share of detail and fairly good light presentation.
The alien attacks are the real show off moments of the track with the rear speakers offering up smashing, shooting and odd electric and alien sounds to generate a tense feeling affair. The score throbs a little but never thumps and the quieter scenes hold quite a solid ambience even when there’s only really dialogue keeping the drama going. This is all pretty standard stuff with really only a glimmer of above average moments.
The disc opens with what seems to be a hundred year old Fox Blu-ray sizzle trailer (seriously The Day After Tomorrow and The Simpsons movie?? Really?).
As for the movie extras, there are a mere four minutes of deleted scenes (four in all) and one extended scene (01:36). There is also a digital copy available on the disc.
The Darkest Hour was a hard watch back when I saw it during its theatrical run and it was even harder here. Honestly there’s not a single character I even mildly liked and barely a moment in this fairly cheap but still fairly large scale sci-fi affair that felt anywhere near real or engaging. The DVD presentation is okay in both video and audio departments and with only deleted scenes in the extras this below average alien invasion isn’t much to get excited about.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 21st May 2012
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 Italian, English Audio Descriptive Audio
Subtitles: English, Italian
Extras: Deleted and Extended Scenes
Easter Egg: No
Director: Chris Gorak
Cast: Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Max Minghella
Genre: Action and Sci-Fi
Length: 89 minutes
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