Two young men (Hirsch and Minghella) travel to Moscow to pitch a new website to investors. Things go wrong and they drown their sorrows in a local bar where they meet two female tourists (Thirlby and Taylor). Then aliens attack and start vaporising the entire world population.
There’s something edifying about a really terrible movie. It’s a cinematic rush different from that produced by the truly brilliant, but no less heady; a sort of joyous disbelief that someone — many people — thought this was not just okay, but worth spending much time and many dollars on, and somehow this lead-booted stiff floated to the top. For the most part The Darkest Hour is just quite a bad movie — no fun for anyone. But hold out for the last 30 minutes and you will be richly rewarded — in this case “rewarded” meaning “subjected to something so enthusiastically chaotic that you can only marvel at the absolute disregard for logic, realism and basic geography”.
Starting out, this is about two computer whizzes (Emile Hirsch, Max Minghella) on website business in Moscow — these two will prove to be impressively knowledgeable in all areas of physics and technology, so we’re to just assume they are ‘broadly science-y’. They meet up with two girls (Olivia Thirlby, Rachael Taylor) who will provide bickering and romance when they all have to survive an alien attack. There is also a horrible guy along for the ride so that we all have someone for whose death to root.
The actual events of the alien escape are completely mechanical: a mysterious outer-space race descends on Earth and starts killing everyone, and the plucky survivors have to work out what the aliens want, what their weakness is, and then get to a safety point without dying. But there is invention in the aliens themselves. They’re a strange, crackling cloud that can neither see nor hear but detects electrical charges (which our heroes, who switch regularly between genius and cretinous, work out with little to no evidence). It is at least an interesting change from almost never seeing the attacking creature — in fact, when we do see the actual alien, realised with digital effects somehow years less advanced than everything else in the film, the invisibility seems an even better idea.
Then the final scenes. Oh God, the final scenes. At a point the whole film just appears to give up, to stop caring whether anything connects and just sprints for the finish. A character falls in a river and rather than swim towards the rest of their crew, just a few metres away, travels approximately a mile (in roughly 90 seconds) to hide on a bus in an area infested with aliens (“infested” meaning “five”). Super-weapons are created then put aside for ineffectual pistols. There’s possibly the greatest text message in cinema history. It’s insane, and by far the most enjoyable part of the movie.
One day this will turn up on a cheap TV channel late at night and you will be drunk/over-tired and it will be a blast. Its that stupid.