If you go by popular entertainment extraterrestrials have been invading our blue orb of a planet for a century. While the stories can be a lot of fun many experts in the field of exobiology the motivations offered by the author of these stories are completely unrealistic. The most popular rationales for alien invasion are a need for water, food supply of energy. There is plenty of water in the universe, even in the neighborhood of our own solar system. Most of it is in a form readily available and with no need to wipe out the local infestation of carbon based life forms. Similar expiations are available precluding the other popular objects of alien desires. If you can cross interstellar distances have surely figured out how to obtain suitable quantities of energy without initiating a galactic, inter species war. Of course, if reason entered into equation we would miss a considerable amount really enjoyable entertainment. Alien invasions have been a mainstay of movies and television for a good number of decades. Naturally there is an amazingly broad variation of quality in this type of story. Some truly classic films like ‘War of the Worlds’, the 1953 version or from the same decade; ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ remain true classics that help define our colure. On the other end of the spectrum reside flicks like the one under scrutiny here, ‘Darkest Hour’. Right off it should be noted that the film has a number of significant short comings. The motivation is, consistent with the above observation highly implausible. Fortunately, this kind of movie the need for a plot can be optional. Sure, having one is always great but when the hideous spaces bent on our annihilation it is possible to get by on special effects, if they are sufficiently innovative. ‘Darkest Hour’ is an example of this phenomenon. It is much more sizzle than steak but occasionally we all can relax and enjoy a few empty cinematic calories. Dedicated cinephiles would be remiss to make a steady diet of flicks like this that are little more than the barest scaffold of a narrative to justify the larger budget for computer driven special effects.
Sean (Emile Hirsch) and Max (Max Minghella) is a pair of young budding entrepreneurs from The United States. They have traveled to Moscow for the purpose of selling their social network software. Once I Russia they wind up in the middle of a full scale alien invasion, definitely not part of their business plan. In a plot device that is nearly mandatory for the genre literally out of the blue comes a horde of invading creatures with the nefarious intentions of draining out energy supplies. Okay, I guess they don’t receive Fox news on their planet but Earth is hardly the place to go for untapped energy resources and we do have the tendency to get rather belligerent when it comes to protecting what we do have. In one little twist that I have seen in a number of years, the extraterrestrial are beings of pure energy that live by sucking the energy out of anything around, during this process the energy ‘supplier’ disappears in a puff of sooty smoke. Okay, I have seen s lot of special effects over the years but the ones seen here are creatures consisting of pure energy. The two American computer nerds are on the run along with the Swedish businessman they were in town to meet, Skyler (Joel Kinnaman), and just to comply with the demands of the principle demographic, teenage boys, the group is joined by two beautiful young women in Russia on Holiday, Natalie (Olivia Thirlby) and Anne (Rachael Taylor).
The group runs into another woman and an electrician. Don’t get too attached to here, someone has to go and the other two actresses have better agents. The electrician has created a potential defense against the aliens, a crude bur effective Faraday cage and for offense a microwave driven projector. Eventually some police types wound one of the invaders with conventional weapons. Making sure the plot hole is stretched to canyon like proportions the idea that the creatures are on Earth to strip mine our metal. Again this raises the objection in the audience of why beings like this would zip past a lot of uninhabited rocky planets to come to earth. Perhaps in some intergalactic travel guide there is a notation; "Earth: come for the resources, stay for the carnage".
The story was provided by Leslie Bohem who does have some interesting previous experience. He was a writer for the Steven Spielberg alien oriented miniseries, ‘Taken’. He also had a hand in to more grounded survival movies ‘Dante's Peak’ and ‘Daylight’ and this experience did translate into an interesting concept. Credited with the screenplay, Jon Spaihts, just didn’t seem able to make things gel properly. Hopefully his attention was on the script he was writing for the highly anticipated prequel to ‘Alien’, ‘Prometheus’. That does have an advantage of tapping into a previously well established mythos and eager fan base. This script had some rough edges giving the impression it was something that may have languished for a while until attention focused on him for the ‘Alien’ screenplay’. The movie is fascinating from a visual perspective. The images and the juxtaposition between CGI and practical shots does demonstrate a lot of talent residing in first time director, Chris Gorak’ this is not surprising since he has been a highly successful Art Director of movies such as ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’, ‘Fight Club’ and Minority Report’. Each of these films had a distinctive look and feel to them which is translated to his work directing here. He certain has the visual elements of directing down but needs something that he can get his teeth into for character development and pacing. The film is a popcorn flick that holds up but does not achieve its potential.