Homefront movie
7.25 out of 10
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire movie
8.75 out of 10
Disney's Frozen movie
10.0 out of 10
Delivery Man movie
6.75 out of 10
8.25 out of 10

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Darkest Hour (3D)

Glimmer of Hope

Rated: PG-13 Sci-fi action violence and some language.
Release Date: December 25, 2011
Runtime: 1 hr 29 min

Director: Chris Gorak
Writers: Jon Spaihts, Leslie Bohem, M.T. Ahern
Cast: Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Max Minghelia, Rachael Taylor, Joel Kinnaman, Veronika Ozerova

SYNOPSIS: During a business trip to Moscow, a software programming engineer and his friend find themselves in the middle of an alien invasion.

REVIEW: Better known for his art and production direction, director Chris Gorak returns after his 2006 written and directed Right at Your Door to direct a sci-fi apocalyptic adventure set in the heart of Russia. Written by the team of Jon Spaihts, the scribe for Ridley Scott's upcoming Prometheus, Leslie Bohem, the writer of Stallone's Daylight, and first-time screenwriter M.T. Ahern, The Darkest Hour uses a couple unique concepts that the sci-fi world has rarely seen, electrically-charged aliens and mother Russia.

Software and Internet programmer Ben (Max Minghelia, The Social Network) travels to Moscow with his friend Sean (Emile Hirsch, Speed Racer) to take a meeting for the clubbing location website concept Ben created. After arriving at the meeting with their contact Skyler (Joel Kinnaman, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, 2011), Ben and Sean are informed that their concept is unneeded. Taking solace in a club location that their Internet site offered up, they hook up with two other Americans, Natalie (Olivia Thirlby, No Strings Attached) and Anne (Rachael Taylor, Shutter). During their socializing, the lights go out and what appears to be strange golden 'Northern Lights' turn into descending wavering orbs of energy that suck up energy and pulverize bystanders into ash. All that survivors can do is stay hidden or try and fight back against overwhelming and unknown odds.

The first interesting point of The Darkest Hour are the aliens. Combining an obvious alien invasionary force bent on sucking dry our planet's resources, The Darkest Hour changes the look of the aliens from the now popular typical tentacled, crab-legged varieties from Super 8 and Cowboys and Aliens to a barely there energy field able to turn flesh and bone into pulverized cremated ash. The second unique point is the use of Moscow as the backdrop for the invasion. Of course, we have seen the Kremlin in this Summer's Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol and the motherland in the Nightwatch trilogy, but seldom in a full-fledged American released sci-fi apocalyptic adventure.

From the title sequence, we cleverly learn that energy-based alien race has scoured the galaxy, devouring and mining planets for their resources, changing their planetary designations to their own or eradicating the planet out of existence altogether. From there, a quick failed Internet investment turns into midnight clubbing and an electrical blackout turned no-nonsense destruction of people and property. No long gestating diabolical plan to lull the populace into a sense of calm before invasion. The residents and tourists of late-night Moscow get a taste of a quick pretty light show followed by hopefully painless disintegration. As hope of survival declines and the invaders systematically route out the remaining population, only trial and error and home-grown electrical engineering and physics may hold the key to the continuation of live.

The electrical aliens are cool. The survivors have to resort to Faraday cages and homemade microwave projectors to even have a chance against the aliens defenses. No Independence Day computer viruses can save the day this time for a happy ending. When the aliens give away their barely perceptible presence by pulsing electrical charges back into the dead mechanical devices and cars that they have made unworkable, light bulbs and cellphones become early warning systems. Only when the aliens behind the electrical technology are revealed does the effect become less thought out and more akin to the monsters in How to Train Your Dragon.

The 3D is unnecessary and not worth the extra money, so keep with the version that does not require extra glasses. The story is well-paced and entertaining, although predictable in spots. As primary characters meet an ashy demise, the audience realizes that there are no guarantees when it comes to a nomadic, technologically advanced and resource hungry species. At 89 minutes, The Darkest Hour is a quick fix, even if it doesn't shine through a season of superior films.

WORTH: Matinee or Rental

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