Although the aliens are invisible and the human survivors run around with a weapon that looks like it is leftover from Ghostbusters, The Darkest Hour keeps the audience entertained. The movie manages to craft some tension, but is easily forgettable once the final credits roll.
Produced by Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) and directed by Chris Gorak, the film features a screenplay by Jon Spaihts (who also wrote the story with Leslie Bohem and M.T. Ahern). It stars Emile Hirsch (Speed Racer), Olivia Thirlby, Max Minghella (The Social Network), Rachael Taylor (Transformers), Joel Kinnaman (The Killing), and Veronika Ozerova.
The film opens with Americans Ben (Minghella) and Sean (Hirsch) arriving in Moscow with dreams of striking it rich thanks to their new software design that allows users to locate the best tourist locations, party clubs and more in every city they visit. Ben is clearly the brains of the duo, and Sean is the people-person who is going to sell the Russian company on their software.
The duo arrive to discover their contact Skyler (Kinnaman) has taken their idea and pitched it to the company as his owns. Since the Americans failed to do any copyright protection, there is little they can do but leave the building defeated and look for a club to drink the failure away. Arriving at one of Moscow’s hottest nightclubs, they get a Russian pep talk from Skyler and meet fellow travelers Natalie (Thirlby) and Anne (Taylor).
Things seem to be turning around for the guys, but then the pesky aliens invade to kill all their fun and any chance they might have of getting lucky with Anne and Natalie. The aliens are invisible (appearing only as a golden electrical charge from time to time), and seem to be immune to all of our weapons. It is also clear they intend to kill every human on the planet.
Ben, Sean, Skyler, Natalie and Anne manage to escape the slaughter by hiding in a cellar room in the club. The group stays there for days and slowly leaves when it is clear they will die if they don’t get out. On the street, the group discovers a way of discovering the aliens by strapping light bulbs around their neck, and also figure out the aliens can’t see through glass – since it blocks electricity. They also learn the alien attack was worldwide, but scattered pockets of humans still survive.
Along the way, they meet Vika (Ozerova) and pick up a weapon that is able to disrupt the aliens’ shield making it possible to kill them. The group of survivors set off to locate a Russian submarine that is in dock to shuttle survivors out of Moscow; hook up with more resistance fighters; and suffer some loses along the way.
The film has a big action sequence towards the end which sees the survivors throwing down with the invisible aliens, and ends with enough room for a sequel – even though the film really isn’t good enough to deserve one.
Although it is easily forgettable, The Darkest Hour does manage to entertain, and the concept of an invisible alien isn’t as bad as it sounds. The gold electrical charge and brief glimpses of the aliens inside them help sell the invasion aspect. The deaths of major characters keep the tension amped up in the film and the audience from feeling everyone will make it out alive.
The young cast does a good job in the film, but none of the characters are fully developed enough to make the audience care about the aliens attacking. The movie is a tad predictable, and the ending tease of a sequel felt a little like Terminator to me – with one of the characters on the radio trying to rally the rest of the world to action against the invisible aliens.
The film looks great on Blu-ray with all the electrical charges popping on the screen. It also comes loaded with bonus material including commentary; deleted and extended scenes; a look at the effects of the film; and a short on more survivors from the alien invasion.
As sci-fi alien invasion films go, The Darkest Hour isn’t the best, but it is far from the worst entry in the genre. The special effects are decent, the acting is solid, and the invisible alien idea adds a bit of tension from time to time. It isn’t going to leave a lasting impression, but is an entertaining way to kill 89 minutes on a rainy day.
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