Despite the fact that “The Darkest Hour” was smuggled into U.S. theaters on Christmas Day with no advance press screenings, I went in full of residual holiday good cheer, prepared to give this sci-fi movie the benefit of the doubt that all B-movies deserve.
By the time the closing credits came up, however, I felt drained of my Yule joy, dispirited by this aggressively idiotic movie.
It’s the sort of film where our plucky band of survivors learns ways to resist their invisible alien foes, but then never use that information.
Case in point: heroes Sean (Emile Hirsch) and Ben (Max Minghella) figure out that they can avoid detection by hiding under a car. Then this bit of intel is never mentioned again, so instead of crawling under abandoned vehicles when trying to travel down roads, our heroes instead run around screaming, making themselves into perfect targets.
If these dimwits represent the hope of humanity, bring on the alien overlords.
Sean and Max have come to Moscow to peddle an internet venture, but when their ideas get stolen, they head to a hot bar to drown their sorrows. There they run into Skyler (Joel Kinnaman), the stealer of the aforementioned ideas, and Natalie (Olivia Thirlby) and Anne (Rachael Taylor). The latter two apparently have the mutant power of having their hair and makeup look awesome even after a week of being chased by invisible aliens, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Those aliens appear as glowing orbs in the night sky, and they immediately set about making all the power go out and vaporizing any human being or dog who gets too close. The quintet of characters who have been given first names hide out in the nightclub kitchen, but after a few days of living on canned goods, they venture out into the abandoned streets.
They soon realize that while the aliens, who have wiped out most of the population, are invisible, they can be detected by the way they make electrical circuits light up in their presence. Sean comes up with the idea of wearing a light bulb around his neck as an early-warning device, but only Natalie follows suit. And then, run, run, vaporize, meet Nick Frost-ian electronics geek (Dato Bakhtadze as Sergei) with an anti-alien microwave gun, run, run, encounter homemade-weapons-brandishing good ol’ boys who look like the cast of a Muscovite remake of “Bellflower.”
Writer Jon Spaihts and director Chris Gorak seem unable to provide suspense, shocks, characters, or even memorable technobabble. Hirsch, Minghella and Thirlby have done interesting work in the past, and probably will in the future, but all they have to show for “The Darkest Hour” was the free trip to Russia.
In the final wash, this movie has three interesting things to offer: the empty, post-apocalyptic streets of modern-day Moscow, the unpredictable death of a major character, and a cat named after “Yo Gabba Gabba!” star DJ Lance Rock. None of those things merits the interruption of your holiday.