These Final Hours (2013)

These Final Hours_Crop

Australian writer-director Zak Hilditch’s apocalyptic vision is striking in its visuals, bold in its bleakness and completely unoriginal in its core narrative. An asteroid strike in the North Atlantic sends a tsunami of unstoppable fire around the world, with Western Australia the last place to be hit. The people of Perth have 12 hours to contemplate their demise and, as the sky turns hotter, lawlessness rapidly descends – with many choosing suicide or the escape of hard drugs, rather than meeting their fate head on.

Unfortunately, this study of humanity descending into chaos when faced with its own end becomes just another case of bombastic window dressing for the tale of an unlikeable man’s road to redemption. In this case it’s whiny party animal James (Nathan Phillips) who deserts his wistful, newly-pregnant true love Zoe (Jessica De Gouw) in favour of ‘getting fucked up’ at a nearby party where his wild-eyed, bikini-clad girlfriend Vicky (Kathryn Beck) is drowning her fear in a cocktail of sex and drugs.

While this regression to our basest instincts might be understandable behaviour given the circumstances, here it’s a blunt-edged plot device serving as little more than a series of markers on James’ path to illumination. The same is true for the plight of Rose (Angourie Rice), the young girl who James helps find her father, switching on his humanity in the process.

There are some moving moments, not least when cinematographer Bonnie Elliott’s tightly-framed camera makes horrifying discoveries at the homes of both James’ sister and Rose’s aunt. And a subtle, well-handled exchange between James and his estranged, acerbic mother (Lynette Curran) sensitively underscores the inescapable, overwhelming finality of this cataclysmic event. These flashes of poignancy are, however, deadened by the fact that this awesome occurrence has been utterly diluted into the experiences of a single, dull man.

2 stars

UK release: May 6, 2016

This review was originally published by The List

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