The Darkest Hour

Year: 2011
Production Co: Summit Entertainment
Director: Chris Gorak
Producer: Timur Bekmambetov
Writer: Jon Spaihts/Leslie Bohem/M T Ahern
Cast: Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Max Minghella, Rachael Taylor, Joel Kinnaman

Some of the scenes in the trailer looked cool but I should have thought it out a bit better. Alien creatures made of... wait for it... wisps of light? Yes they might be able to eat you up into dust (although we already saw that in Spielberg's War of the Worlds), but cinematically it's about as scary as a monster made out of a cup of pot noodles.

It seems Emile Hirsch at least realised as much after he started filming, giving among his worst performances ever (and he can act – just watch Sean Penn's Into the Wild). I felt the most sorry for Olivia Thirlby and Max Minghella, who gave it their all in a movie that could have been a big starring role for them both if it hadn't been such rubbish.

Holidaying in Moscow, four young Americans are of course among the only ones who survive an alien invasion where the creatures are balls of light that fall from the sky and walk around attacking people, making them disappear in huge clouds of dust.

It soon becomes apparent that they interfere with electrical systems, which gives the photogenic survivors a way to tell where they are, but the rest of the movie is a chase sequence with a few set pieces – none of them very memorable – while trying to get out of the devastated city and figure out if the rest of the world's the same before they get picked off.

There's a sequence right at the end, a throwaway moment where humanity has discovered how to fight back against the invaders, where Hirsch looks stoically at a table and says 'this is where it begins', referring to the counterattack.

Unfortunately Independence Day had the budget and scope to show us the counterattack, where The Darkest Hour only shows a group of pretty twentysomething running around a foreign city, and you can almost see the mixed emotion on Hirsch's face as he says it – relief because it's over but embarrassment because people will actually see what he's been doing for 90 minutes of their lives.

Complete miscasting, nary a scare in sight and with not nearly enough to do, The Darkest Hour is a very empty spectacle that isn't even spectacular. It actually has the hallmarks of a movie that was cut off at the knees by a reduced budget or an enforced edit at the 11th hour.

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