The Darkest Hour Blu-ray Review
It seems like recently there is never a shortage of thriller/horror films with a slight science-fiction slant. Sadly, the vast majority of these movies live in the land of ‘made-for-tv’ or ‘straight-to-video’, but those usually have terrible effects and worse acting. THE DARKEST HOUR, a sci-fi/thriller set in Moscow, has absolutely brilliant special effects… for the first half of the film. They made something out of almost nothing and this brilliant trick feels like old style filmmaking… but in the end it simply doesn’t hold up.
THE DARKEST HOUR is the story of two young American software designers, Sean (Emile Hirsch) and Ben (Max Minghella). They travel to Moscow planning to sell their software to investors, only to discover that their contact sold them out. With nothing better to do, the pair go on a bender. While partying they meet some young women (also from America) and run into their former friend and contact, Skyler (Joel Kinnaman), just as the world comes to an end.
A citywide blackout sends everyone outside, where strange golden balls of electricity are descending on the city. People seem mesmerized, but suddenly the balls of light disappear, leaving behind just a flicker of… something… just beyond sight. Something that you can almost see… can almost feel getting ready to reach out and grab you. A police officer steps forward from the crowd, approaching the previous location of the mysterious orb, until he suddenly disintegrates in front of everyone. In the hysteria that ensues, our heroes (Sean, Ben, Skyler, Anne, and Natalie) are somehow able to escape and hide in the basement of a bar for a few days.
This is where THE DARKEST HOUR is the strongest. The hints of danger, the almost views of the monsters, and the wonderful suspense of the invisible. Our heroes soon realize that simply carrying light bulbs or watching electronic devices gives the best indicator of the aliens location – anything they come near turns on. This is a great trick and, even though it’s simple, this is what keeps THE DARKEST HOUR working for the first 45 minutes or so. But then the movie just falls apart.
You can survive the first half of the movie on the beautiful visuals, the sounds, and the hope that something will happen that will elevate this film into the pantheon of great sci-fi thriller features. This never happens, though, and the promise of THE DARKEST HOUR slips away right in front of us. The promising talents of Hirsch (INTO THE WILD, or maybe I should be referencing SPEED RACER here), Minghella (THE SOCIAL NETWORK), and Olivia Thirlby (THE IDES OF MARCH) aren’t enough to elevate the dialogue, and the best effects in the world (which these are NOT) aren’t enough to make us feel something, to care for the world that’s been created.
It’s sad to me because I love science fiction. It’s sad to me because I love thrillers. THE DARKEST HOUR is the world of both worlds, offering neither creativity nor authenticity to a world that might as well have been made of cardboard. I’m not even going to talk about why anyone would follow Emile Hirsch and why he would become a military strategist. It just doesn’t work. Never garnering any interest beyond a passing curiosity, I just can’t recommend this one.
Video: (1080p, 2.40:1 Widescreen) The video is masterfully presented in beautiful 1080p. THE DARKEST HOUR is one of the most beautiful pictures I’ve had the pleasure of watching on my HD television.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The sound, like the picture, is beautifully presented in THE DARKEST HOUR Blu-ray presentation.
Commentary with director Chris Gorak (01:28:58) Director Gorak gives a decent effort here, but I can’t imagine anyone wanting to sit through THE DARKEST HOUR a second time. If you do, though, there are some nice tidbits about the challenges they faced shooting in Moscow and working with invisible aliens.
THE DARKEST HOUR: Survivors (08:10) Presented in HD, this short focuses on the human response worldwide as they attempt to fight off the invasion. If you can get past the pretentious delivery and terrible acting, there is more explanation in this 8 minutes than in the whole of THE DARKEST HOUR.
THE DARKEST HOUR: Visualizing an Invasion (12:09) This feature focuses on the visual effects presented in THE DARKEST HOUR. The simple presentation of this idea (at least for the first 75% of the movie) is the core strength of the film.
Deleted and Extended Scenes (04:48) 4 deleted and 1 extended scene, these scenes are available for viewing with or without optional director commentary. Nothing special here, except for a nice scene between Max Minghella’s Ben and Veronika Vernadskaya’s Vika. A simple scene but it would have been a nice moment to add to the inanity that is THE DARKEST HOUR.
This Blu-ray package also includes THE DARKEST HOUR in 3D for enabled HD sets.