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Darkest Hour, The
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by Brett Gallman

"Attack the bloc."
1 stars

I first saw the trailer for “The Darkest Hour” attached to “Attack the Block,” which I thought was clever marketing at the time. After all, the two pretty much share the same central concept of a group of youths fending off alien lifeforms. Now that Chris Gorak’s take has finally been released, the connection is an unfortunate one, as “The Darkest Hour” feels like the Asylum’s riff on “Attack the Block,” only, instead of premiering on the SyFy Channel this past Saturday night (where it would have been seen by thousands), it somehow landed a nationwide release (where it will hopefully only be seen by hundreds).

This version of the story features not the downtrodden, underdog youth of Britain, but rather, a couple of American bros (Emile Hirsch and Max Minghella) who are software developers in Moscow. When they aren’t fantasizing about the numerous girls they’re going to have sex with, they are, in fact, developing software that will help other guys do the same thing. That is, until a Russian goon (Joel Kinnaman) swipes their idea in a move that’ll only serve to remind you of another, better movie (that Minghella also starred in) . The duo isn’t given long to drown their sorrows, as some malicious aliens (that resemble jellyfish in both appearance and intelligence) begin to vaporize everyone.

And yes, said vaporizations will also recall Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds,” which is only a good thing because it allows you to hold out hope that the entire cast will be wiped out swiftly. Such hopes are quickly dashed, however, when you realize you’re stuck with this for 89 agonizing minutes that find Hirsch and Minghella hooking up with a couple of girls (Olivia Thirlby and Rachel Taylor) as they try to outrun and outwit the luminous blobs trying to take over the world. You’d think that wouldn’t be too hard; seriously, I refuse to call these things intelligent life forms since they seem to have trouble with locks and are fooled by people hiding under cars.

Maybe the aliens somehow read the script and were just as thoroughly confused by the “rules” as I was--there’s a lot of mumbo jumbo about how they can “smell” energy but are somehow thwarted by mirrors and homemade proton packs (the guys bump into this eccentric Russian guy who just happens to be an idiot savant who figures out ET’s weakness). I think the clinical term for this script would be “brain dead,” with its vapidity extending all the way down to the dialogue. Because I like to revel in things that are joyous, I did my best to recall Joe Cornish’s brilliant, distinctive dialogue in “Attack the Block” whenever the characters here opened their mouths; whereas he authentically captured the voices of his young characters, this script feels like it was written by someone that hasn’t hung out with anyone under the age of 30 for a few decades and who also thinks most Russian people are named Boris and Sergei.

Perhaps the most bewildering moment comes during the final act, which involves the characters seeking out a Russian sub (with the assistance of some guys who looked to have wandered in from a community theater rendition of “Mad Max”). At one point, all of the characters end up getting dumped into the water, save for one, who somehow manages to wind up several yards inland. I’d blame it on bad editing, but I suspect this only happens because someone decided the film needed to labor on for yet another act.

I can also only assume that this film was made so that a bunch of young actors with promising careers can have an embarrassing blemish; with the exception of Taylor (whose biggest claim to fame is being the other hot girl that isn’t Megan Fox in “Transformers”), much of the main cast seem to have been poised to have fine careers at some point or another. Hirsch especially feels like he deserves a better fate, especially once “The Darkest Hour” tries to convince you that he’s well-suited to be a badass, gun-toting post-apocalyptic warrior, which is about as believable as him being an Asian anime icon. Hopefully someone got him a new agent for Christmas.

The vacuous script isn’t helped by Gorak’s dull, lifeless direction; if anything, the pale, ashen cinematography probably does capture the dreariness of Moscow, but that’s probably just a happy accident that resulted from a lack of a lighting budget. This is an ugly, drab movie, and the 3D does it no favors; though it was natively shot in the format (instead of being post-converted), you’d never be able to tell. Watching it, I think I was most impressed by the depth of field provided by some power lines, plus I thought the subtitles popped off the screen. The only thing the effect contributed was 3 extra dollars to my ticket, a cynical, transparent ploy that needs to die in a fire.

It’s rather infuriating that this managed to reach over 2300 screens when “Attack the Block” could only make it to a paltry 66. Unbelievably, this one cost over twice as much to make, though you’d never convince me of that; “The Darkest Hour” is so committed to its SyFy aesthetic that some of its fade-out transitions feel like we’re being taken to a commercial break. If only we could be that lucky--an ad for dog chow might have spiced up the proceedings a bit.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=21276&reviewer=429
originally posted: 12/29/11 05:13:38
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  25-Dec-2011 (PG-13)
  DVD: 10-Apr-2012


  DVD: 10-Apr-2012

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