Tired of wreaking havoc in New York and Los Angeles (really, how many more CGI shots must we see of a deserted Times Square or a ravaged Staples Center?), aliens set their sights on Moscow in The Darkest Hour, a new end-of-the-world thriller that’s as much fun to watch as a 90-minute ultrasound video.
Emile Hirsch and Max Minghella play buddies who travel to the Russian capital looking for funding for a new social media service they’ve invented, but find out early on that their idea’s been hijacked by a would-be partner. (Incidentally this is the second time in two years Minghella’s playing the same part; remember he was in The Social Network playing the Indian guy who came up with the original idea for Facebook with the Winklevoss twins?) While drowning their sorrows at a local bar, they befriend two female tourists (played by Olivia Thirlby and Rachel Taylor), when suddenly a blackout strikes the city. Pretty soon countless floating, sparkly orbs descend from the sky, soaking up all electricity and turning anything and anyone that comes in their way into a pile of dust. What follows is a dull adventure in which the foursome must desperately try to stay alive, and even defeat the enemy, while struggling to make their way to the American embassy through what resembles a war-torn wasteland.
The film’s single smart idea is that it’s about humans fighting semi-invisible aliens – an enemy they can’t really see – but instead of playing on that paranoia and treating it as a struggle for survival, the filmmakers quickly turn it into a saga of courage and bravado, which simply isn’t as much fun.
The film’s special effects are inconsistent, there are no performances to speak of, and the dialogue is particularly cheesy. More than half the film unfolds in the dark, which gets tiring after a point, and the characters themselves are so dumb, you really couldn’t care less if they make it to safety in the end or not.
I’m going with one out of five for The Darkest Hour. It packs few thrills and barely any scares. No reason you should waste your time or money.