The Darkest Hour Review
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There exists a proud tradition of Saturday afternoon and late-night basic cable showings for low-budget, admittedly cheesy sci-fi movies. Thereís even a channel now that specializes in them, and thatís clearly where Chris Gorkinís The Darkest Hour is aimed. Even by those standards, though, itís just a few clever ideas surrounded by a lot of uninteresting formula.

Set and filmed in Moscow, the film introduces four twenty-something American tourists. Sean (Emile Hirsch) and Ben (Max Minghella) are there to start an Internet business and meet girls. Natalie (Olivia Thirlby) and Anne (Rachael Taylor) are just there to meet boys. Go figure, they meet. Then the lights go out, and, overnight, Moscow is wiped out by nearly invisible aliens that use lightning as whips to disintegrate anyone they touch. Primed to survive such an onslaught by alcohol and the Discovery channel, the quartet must figure out how to survive and escape the city.

Unlike a lot of other mid-card science fiction, The Darkest Hour gets a fair bit of mileage out of shooting in Moscow, rather than the generic Eastern European cities that tend to fill in. Thereís something about the sight of a known busy city completely devoid of people that remains unsettling, no matter how often itís used. There are a few nice visual flourishes, including the aliensí arrival as wisps of light drifting out of the sky.

But then you catch a glimpse of the aliens, or rather the not-quite-finished CGI, and youíre reminded that this really is in the lower B-movie range. The protagonists donít fare much better, more thinly sketched character placeholders than people. The most interesting thing about them is guessing whoíll get zapped in which order. More fun are the side characters, all playing Russians, some even played by Russians. Swedish-American Joel Kinnaman has some fun as a slimy Russian yuppie, while Georgian Dato Bakhtadze reminds us all that sometimes the crazy guy upstairs in the bathrobe and stained T-shirt is really a physics genius who can build a microwave gun out of parts from Radio Shack.

Overall, though, The Darkest Hour just feels incomplete. Very little in the alien invasion plot actually gets resolved, and the underwhelming climax confirms that theyíd already spent whatever modest budget they had by the time they got there. It seems like theyíre trying to set up for a franchise to follow, though theyíd have been better off making this one more memorable first. Itís too bad because, in those rare moments when the film actually indulges its whimsy, it provides a glimpse of what it could have been.

Despite some higher production values, there isnít much to separate this film from most of the other cheap sci-fi fare out there. Showing up on a fairly bare-bones Blu-ray release, itís certainly not a title to rush out and buy, but thereís enough going on to make it worth not changing the channel should it grace basic cable on a lazy Saturday afternoon.

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