Movie Reviews & Interviews from Washington

‘The Darkest Hour’ Review: Neither horrific nor entertaining

Don’t wait for “The Darkest Hour” to come out on Blu-ray/DVD, don’t spend the dollar to rent it from Red Box and don’t even take an hour and a half out of your precious day to watch it on cable.

The reason studios release films like this on Christmas Day is to try and attract the crowds who want to see an action/thriller over a potential Oscar contender like “War Horse” or a family friendly picture like “We Bought a Zoo” during the holidays. Unfortunately this time around, the studio, Summit Entertainment, shouldn’t have taken on the movie to begin with because I’m sure they’ll lose money on it.

The first minute of “Darkest Hour” begins as we are introduced to the two main characters, Sean (Emile Hirsch) and Ben (Max Minghella), American software developers who are traveling to Moscow in attempt to sell their latest website concept. When they realize their idea for a global traveler social network has been stolen, they head to a bar to drown their sorrows. They end up meeting two girls, Natalie (Olivia Thirlby) and Anne (Rachael Taylor), and the boys manage to get a few words in before they realize the city is under attack.

The first alien assault is impressive, as we’re not quite sure what’s going on, but dying for the explanation that is sure to come! A classic action sequence shows humans being fried to dust by invisible alien life forms that have come down to the planet to suck Earth’s energy. It’s after the attack that the film loses momentum and goes downhill.

Sean, Ben, Natalie and Anne, along with one other, stick together and hide out in the bar’s storage room for a few days, where they snack on bar food and liquor until they have the courage to go out and brave the city. They find that Moscow is deserted, and the group tries to figure out what exactly destroyed it. They venture across the city and meet other survivors, all the while scrambling to avoid the extraterrestrials.

If helpless humans are biting the dust every couple of minutes, you would think that the 3D aspects of the film would blow you away, no pun intended. However, the 3D was completely non-existent, which is a shame because it could have really added to the film. The whole time I was wearing my 3D glasses, I’m wondering why we were ever handed them in the first place.

Darkest Hour Emile Hirsch

The film fails at the narrative element since director Chris Gorak (“Right at Your Door”) is so focused on constructing as many alien attacks as possible in the entire 80 minutes of the film, we never fully understand why the aliens came down and how they are exactly using energy to become invisible. It’s just one chase after another and one too many dust particles flying in the wind.

Then we are subjected to a romance subplot in which Hirsch and Thirlby’s characters become involved after one night of fighting alien forces together. It’s horrible and doesn’t make any sense.

The one and only aspect “The Darkest Hour” has going for it is the beautiful and historic backdrop of Moscow. Other than that, I felt embarrassed for all actors involved. Not only are they trying their best to make up for the absurd plot by putting on “dramatic acting faces,” “Oh no, let’s run for our lives since a blast of dust is coming this way, it could be the aliens!” this makes their behavior look cartoonish and unconvincing.

“The Darkest Hour” is a lifeless motion picture that is a slap in the face to all great films where E.T. is involved.

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