"In Moscow, five young people lead the charge against an alien race who have attacked Earth."
This movie was recommended to me last year by some of my Russian friends on Twitter presumably because it was filmed in Moscow. Having seen it taunting me on Wal-mart's shelves for at least the last four months, I finally decided to watch it.
I'm going to make this very quick since "The Darkest Hour" wasn't a horror movie and, even worse than that, it was a PG-13 rated piece of sci-fi instead.
I didn't completely hate it but, since the director. Chris Gorak, was also responsible for the very overrated "Right at Your Door" (2006) which my local pawn shop has acquired about 20 copies of, I didn't expect much of it to begin with. I didn't know that Timur Bekamambetov was a producer, but, if I had known, it would have lowered my expectations even further after suffering through that crappy "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" earlier this year.
As a rather kiddie-friendly, CGI aliens-filled, action-adventure, "The Darkest Hour" was a bit of a change from the usual gory stuff I watch. I had nothing better to watch this Saturday either so it was time to crack open another Monster and just let my brain rot for a while. The Monster wasn't to keep me alert, but it was necessary to prevent me from nodding off completely during this rather safe and predictable story.
From left to right in the picture above: Joel Kinnaman played Skylar, Rachael Taylor was Anne, Emile Hirsch was Sean, Max Minghella was Ben, and Olivia Thirlby (who is in the new "Dredd" movie) was Natalie. Do you recognise any of them? No? I'm not surprised.
The only member of the cast who I recognised was Rachael Taylor. She played Jane in the remake of "Shutter" (2008). If you've read my review of "Shutter" then you'll know that I liked her a lot in it. Unfortunately, I found her true Australian accent to be horribly jarring and discordant in "The Darkest Hour". She's great to look at, but I never want to hear her speak again.
As for the rest of the actors, they were all underused but very good in their roles. I've got a feeling that they all have quite successful TV careers because they had that look about them, but I swear to you that I'd never heard of any of them before. Even looking through their credits on the IMDb didn't help because I don't remember watching anything they've ever been in. One of the Russian soldier-type guys looked familiar, but I couldn't place him. I'm only joking. He was, of course, Ignat in Timur Bekmambetov's "Night Watch" and "Day Watch" movies. He was quite unrecognisable though, and it was bizarre to hear him speak English.
The actress who stood out the most was a fifteen-year-old Russian called Veronika Vernadskaya who played Vika. For some reason, Emile Hirsch kept calling her Viga (with a "g" instead of a "k") which threw me almost as much as hearing Moscow being repeatedly mispronounced as Mos-cow (mooo!). Veronika Vernadskaya didn't have a lot to do, but she did it well and will undoubtedly be a big star one day if she stays away from any more of these PG-13 sci-fi movies.
Another Russian with a small but important role was Dato Bakhtadze as the slightly eccentric electrician who devised a way to defeat the aliens using a homemade microwave gun. Allegedly, he was previously in "Wanted" (2008) and "Chernaya Molniya" (2009), but I don't remember him from either. I also only mention the plot point about the microwave gun because, basically, it was as stupid as something out of "Doctor Who" and I loathe "Doctor Who".
I'm not going to spoil it for you by telling you what it was, but the motivation of the alien invaders was pretty lame. "The Darkest Hour" would have been a brilliant horror movie if the aliens had come to eat people in some kind of intergalactic harvest instead. I know that story has been done to death too, but, given the great production values in this film, it was a shame to waste any of them on such childish drivel.
I like a lot of real Russian movies so it was nice to see Moscow in a movie again, and it was a very welcome change to see another part of the world being destroyed by aliens rather than New York or Los Angeles. It would have been even nicer if "The Darkest Hour" had used a completely Russian cast and hadn't relied on some stereotypical Yanks who nobody has ever heard of to play the main protagonists, but at least the Russians in the movie were the ones who really saved the day.
For a PG-13 sci-fi movie which I watched on a rainy, Saturday afternoon, "The Darkest Hour" held my interest, was fairly exciting in a couple of places, and I grudgingly recommend it to anyone who can look past the overused "apocalyptic alien invasion" scenario or "Buffy"-style CGI death scenes.