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The Independent Critic

Max Minghella, Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Rachael Taylor
Chris Gorak
Jon Spaihts, Leslie Bohem, M.T. Ahern
Rated PG-13
89 Mins.
Summit Entertainment
Short film "The Darkest Hour: Survivors"; Audio Commentary w/Director; Deleted Scenes; Extended Scenes; Behind the Scenes Featurette

 "The Darkest Hour" Review 
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Have you ever wanted to travel to Russia?

That's the only legit reason I can imagine for Emile Hirsch's decision to align himself with the sub-par sci-fi thriller The Darkest Hour, a Timur Bekmambetov production of a Chris Gorak (Right at Your Door) film about a small group of Americans who find themselves in Russia when what appears to be, or I suppose doesn't appear to be, invisible aliens begin causing havoc and turning to dust anyone that crosses their path.

For that matter, Emile Hirsch isn't the only one who's a surprise here. Max Minghella? I mean, sure, he's not a household name but he's made a solid career in the indie world. Is this, perhaps, sort of an Uwe Boll thing where they simply threw enough money at you for you to be willing to compromise your values?

At least the presence of Olivia Thirlby is a bit more understandable. She's a newcomer. She hasn't learned better yet.

The film opens with two web entrepreneurs (Hirsch and Minghella) arriving in Russia seeking funding for their social media service, only to find themselves double-crossed by a potential partner (Joel Kinnaman). The two drown their sorrows later that evening at a local dive and, of course, stumble across a couple of attractive American women (Olivia Thirlby and Rachael Taylor), the kind of women who are "impulsively" globe-hopping because they can.

The most astounding thing about The Darkest Hour is just how incredibly boring the whole affair actually is from beginning to end, with the possible exception of a few moments when our Americans stumble across Sergei (Dato Bakhtadze), a bit of a renegade who dramatically ups the film's energy and quirk level high enough that one almost has hopes that what starts out incredibly drab might actually be salvageable. Alas, Sergei doesn't hang around long enough and the film's energy plummets once again. It's as if everyone committed to the project figured out early on that the script by Jon Spaihts, who also has penned the upcoming Prometheus, is pretty much devoid of anything resembling originality, character development or, even at the most fundamental level, excitement.

The film was made on location in Russia, including having the good fortunate to be filmed in several key locations including Red Square. So, why does everything feel so fake? The Darkest Hour is also a 3-D production, though abysmally so.

Bekmambetov has turned into quite the producer, but The Darkest Hour could have actually benefited from having him at the helm. While there's nothing truly substantial about the film, Bekmambetov has proven quite able to turn out stylishly designed and entertaining films such as Night Watch and Day Watch.

The Darkest Hour
was originally scheduled to be my "stand-in" film for my annual Christmas Day tradition of seeing a horror film. With no horror films in theaters, I figured a decent alien flick might serve quite nicely. Then, of course, I found myself gifted by another film and, quite fortunately, was able to later catch this film courtesy of a kind manager who probably just wanted to fill another seat or two for the nearly empty theater.

It comes down to this...Emile? You've had your trip to Russia, so now can we get back to making quality films? The same goes for you, Max. Oh, and Olivia? A couple more films like this one and you're not going to have to worry about your Hollywood career much longer.

The Darkest Hour. Hmmmm. It may actually be appropriately named, because this sure was the darkest couple hours I've spent in a movie theater in the last couple months.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic