Darkest Hour DVD Review
Written by Daniel Benson
DVD released by 20th Century Fox
Directed by Chris Gorak
Written by John Spaihts and Leslie Bohem
2011, Region 2 (PAL), 89 minutes, Rated 12 (UK)
DVD released on DATE
Emile Hirsch as Sean
Olivia Thirlby as Natalie
Max Minghella as Ben
Rachael Taylor as Anne
Joel Kinnaman as Skyler
Veronika Vernadskaya as Vika
What can be done to differentiate an alien invasion survival movie from all the rest? Well, you could start by not setting it in America, the only country that extraterrestrials ever seem to invade. You could also have some characters with depth, a compelling story and great creature design. Unfortunately for The Darkest Hour, all it manages to do is switch the location.
When budding internet millionaires Sean (Emile Hirsch) and Ben (Max Minghella) travel to Moscow to partner up their website – a sort of Facebook for travellers – with Russian investors, they arrive at the meeting to find their Swedish arch-nemesis Skyler (Joe Kinnaman) already rubber-stamping the deal. Apparently a non-disclosure agreement would have prevented him from stealing the young friends’ entire business and selling it to the Russians. Or more likely it’s a very tenuous plot-point to make you dislike Skyler and hope he’s later killed by aliens.
Deciding that all is lost, the boys decide the best thing to do would be go and get drunk in a trendy nightclub, where they bump into two female travellers who happen to be networking on their FaceofthePlanetBook.com (it’s not really called that). And because every internet prodigy is narcissistic enough to put pictures of themselves on their own websites, the girls — Natalie (Olivia Thirlby) and Anne (Rachael Taylor) — immediately recognise them after already having a prior conversation over the relative hotness of the business partners.
When the power goes out in the club, everyone files outside to find the sky full of ethereal, wispy clouds of light that dance around and enchant the assembled crowd. It’s only when a police officer gingerly approaches one of the entities that their true nature is revealed. The cop is tossed up in the air by a tentacle of electricity, then pulled into the centre of the light and instantly vapourised into dust. Run away!
As expected, the central characters, their business nemesis and the two girls, are the only survivors of the nightclub invasion, and from this point the film abandons its fairly unique approach to alien invasion and sets off a fairly bog-standard survival story. The concept for the invaders is the unique thing about this movie; they are concentrated balls of energy that move around and tend to set electrical items into life when passing around and through them. The group quickly works out ways to best avoid trouble with the aliens and embark on a journey across Moscow to meet up with a submarine that will be their salvation.
The standard template for this kind of film is followed, with various encounters with small pockets of survivors and frequent brushes with the energy balls to keep things moving. One survivor even lives in a Faraday cage, and handily builds them a microwave gun out of household appliances. Exactly the sort of guy you need to meet after the aliens have landed.
When there is finally a glimpse of the bad-guys, it’s sorely disappointing. The energy balls are just the vessels for the invaders to travel around in. Inside they’re black and spiky, but look more like a videogame character than anything genuinely threatening. This is only a 12A certificate here in the UK, though, so it’s hardly likely to have anything gruesome as an antagonist.
For a slow evening’s entertainment The Darkest Hour doesn’t do too badly. It’s a bit silly, the CGI is dodgy at times and the story is nothing new, but at 85 minutes and change it’ll be over before you’ve realised. And it’s a hell of a lot more digestible than Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
Video and Audio:
The video is remarkably clear, with a very slightly desaturated look. At times, it's too clear and shows up some of the sub-standard CGI. The audio is a reasonable effort, most of the alien attacks make good use of the surrounds, but outside of those scenes there's little to lift it above average.
Just four minutes of deleted scenes and one extended scene. Not much to write home about, although there is a digital copy of the movie on the disc, should you wish to transfer a copy to a mobile device.