Maybe I’ve been watching some really bad movies lately, because I have a feeling I liked The Darkest Hour more than I should have. If you’ve seen trailers for it, you’ve already seen the best parts: electrical aliens vaporizing their victims, both human and canine. But those are really cool parts; nothing’s spoiled by seeing them again. The only problem would be if those parts were the only cool ones. For me, they weren’t.
At the risk of losing all credibility, I’ll suggest that the characters actually engage in non-stupid behavior most of the time. For example, when first escaping the alien invasion, they have enough sense to hole up in a safe spot for a reasonable amount of time; “27 hours, give or take an hour.” I’ll stop short of saying they’re “smart”, but they don’t do anything stupid, like say “Don’t go in there”, then, “But there might be something in there.” (Name that movie!)
Also, the obligatory realization about the menace and how to stop it never comes from the main characters; instead, from people they meet who are more qualified to make such realizations. Yes, they figure out some things themselves, but it’s logical they would do so. Perhaps having the two leads be techies is an advantage for them. On the other hand, I would hope almost anyone would know that water conducts electricity.
Sean (Emile Hirsch) and Ben (Max Minghella) are young software designers who have just been screwed on a big deal in Moscow by their Swedish partner, Skyler (Joel Kinnaman). Drowning their sorrows in vodka at a happ’nin nightclub, they meet two American girls: Natalie (Olivia Thirlby) and Anne (Rachael Taylor). Oh, and guess who else is at the nightclub? Skyler, of course. That is so all five can be trapped together when the alien invasion begins. Yes, it’s contrived, but all are decent actors and anything with Joel Kinnaman (The Killing) is going to at least be interesting.
I also like that we don’t actually witness mass destruction of the city. Instead, we see the aftermath. And it’s much scarier to see a CGI airplane that has already crashed than it is to see it actually crash. It sparks a forgotten wonder of the modern mind: imagination. During the 27 or so hours that our heroes were in safe haven, the aliens did a number on poor Moscow. Some of my favorite scenes involve the characters wandering through the deserted city while breezes blow ashes of the dead in pretty little circles around their feet.
At times, the backgrounds and locations look more like computerized paintings and sets instead of real places. Even the aliens, when their protective energy shields are penetrated, look pretty cheesy. But none of this bothers me because the look is consistent. It’s not like everything is great and then something jars you out of the surroundings. If you think of The Darkest Hour as a TV movie with really good special effects instead of a major motion picture with crappy special effects, you might enjoy it more.
In fact, The Darkest Hour would make a fantastic TV series. The movie is open-ended and could continue weekly as various resistance groups fight back against the aliens. (I like the movie better than I like the real TV series, Falling Skies.) How about a franchise like CSI or Law & Order? You know, The Darkest Hour: Miami or The Darkest Hour: SVU.
I’m joking a lot about The Darkest Hour because it is in no way a great movie. However, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Perhaps my final defense of this opinion is that it’s not afraid to knock off a few of the main characters along the way. The final survivors may not be the ones you assume will make it to the end. I actually thought after a couple of vaporizations that anyone else was fair game. I mean, if they’re going to call a movie, The Darkest Hour, it should be a little dark, don’t you think?