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Review: 'The Darkest Hour'

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Remember when Steven Spielberg directed a remake of War of the Worlds a few years back? It may be difficult to recall, what with all the other "alien invasion" films that have arrived between that film's 2005 debut and today, but it made quite a bit of money. And whether you love the flick or despise it, there's little denying that it presented one rather nifty means of destroying human beings with a splash of nastiness but no nasty blood to speak of. Basically, the way the villainous aliens in that film zapped people into ashes was really cool, and PG-13-friendly, conveniently enough -- but why are we even discussing an effective yet admittedly minor aspect of a sci-fi movie from seven years ago? Because it is my assertion that The Darkest Hour was directly and plainly inspired by the "ash kills" in War of the Worlds, and everything else -- the story, the characters, the logic, the energy, the fun -- takes a back-seat to one tiresome display of digital gimmickry.

It's like an entire film built around the "bullet time" scene, and man we know how painful that can be. Seemingly, somehow, inspired by last year's Skyline, the painfully amateurish The Darkest Hour throws us two American idiots in Moscow, an interstellar invasion by invisible, yes invisible, aliens, and 89 minutes of ponderous, lethargic, aimless nothingness. Two vacant-eyed guys (Max Minghella and Emile Hirsch), two whimpering ladies (Olivia Thirlby and Rachael Taylor), and one blandly selfish jerk (Joel Kinnaman) just meander through several deserted Moscow landmarks, alleyways and warehouses. Frequently they must hide from the invisible aliens, and the attempts at suspense are as laughable as the performers' consistently wooden performances. (One of the quintet is particularly unskilled in the acting department; should you ever find yourself subjected to this terrible movie, try to figure out which one I mean.)

When the brain-dead screenplay isn't relying on broken guns, bad directions, or poorly-latched cages, it's assaulting us with painful quips, unconvincing melodrama, and "cover the seams" exposition droplets that are quite simply hilarious. Stuff like "here, we fixed your cell phone using parts from the boat." If any of this stuff had half a sense of humor, or at least one actor who wasn't taking the whole cliched mass so seriously, we might have an alien invasion matinee worth chuckling along with -- or at least chuckling at. But The Darkest Hour seems to think its Cloverfield meets Skyline set-up and a bunch of invisible aliens is all it needs to earn some credit. The fact that the invisible aliens feed on electricity and attack via "shiny whip" do nothing to make them more unique, exciting, or memorable; in fact the alien design simply screams "cheap" across the board.

Based on the shoddy nature of the final product, it seems clear that this flick was junked and retooled multiple times in post-production, and one suspects that director Chris Gorak (Right at Your Door) and screenwriter Jon Spaihts (Prometheus) will survive to enjoy much (much) better films than this yawning train-wreck. Paced like a punishment, cobbled together with outrageously tiresome ideas and people, and truly amateurish in some spots (the thing feels like it was edited with a lawn mower), The Darkest Hour is nowhere near good, not remotely interesting enough to be worthy of mockery, and a miserable time-waste for all involved.

 

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