These Final Hours (2013) Review

these-final-hoursTHESE FINAL HOURS (2013)

Director:  Zak Hilditch

Stars: Nathan Phillips, Jessica De Gouw, Kathryn Beck, Angourie Rice, Daniel Henshall, Lynette Curran

A massive object has collided with the Earth, obliterating the Northern hemisphere and sending a destructive wave from the point of impact that will annihilate everything in its path. The people of Australia have just eight hours until it reaches them.

The film opens with irresponsible screw-up James (Nathan Phillips) abandoning Zoe (Jessica De Goew) a girl who loves him and is carrying his child, instead opting to meet his long-term girlfriend Vicky (Kathryn Beck) at the party to end all parties, thrown by Vicky’s brother Freddy (Daniel Henshall). Here James intends to do drugs, drink and screw himself into oblivion.

However, on route James witnesses kidnappers dragging a young girl, Rose (Angourie Rice) into a house.
Unable to stand idly by, James intervenes and finds himself the girl’s custodian of the girl and agreeing to help reunite Rose with her family. Can this flawed and broken man do the right thing for once? Can he save an innocent… and himself?

these-final-hours-1-1Wow, These Final Hours blew me away. The story, the filmmaking, the cast, the themes — it’s fantastic. The story is compelling and provokes some genuine emotion (I felt quite choked up during the latter stages), not least because of some fantastic characterisation.As flawed leads go, Nathan Phillips’s James ticks all the boxes — selfish, weak, irresponsible — yet we still root for him to do the right thing. This is thanks to the superb Phillips. His is a brave, honest performance, and makes for one of the most believable and tragic protagonists I’ve seen in some time.

Likewise Angourie Rice is a revelation — that rare thing, a child actor who is talented but doesn’t come across as precocious. She is more than up to the demands of the role, a role which is more than a simple plot device through which James is offered one last shot at redemption. Rice is a legitimate co-lead and she is just as good as her older partner.

It is the interaction between the two of them that is the heart of the film. It encapsulates some of the movie’s strongest themes — it’s no small irony that after running from his unborn child James still finds himself in the role of guardian to a minor. There’s no running from your parental responsibilities, a message echoed during an emotional visit to James’ mother’s house. His mother (the excellent Lynette Curran) has grown used to being let-down by her son, but there’s still room for him. In fact, after witnessing the way in which James disappoints Vicky, Zoe and his Mum, we can’t help but hope that Rose is the one lady he’ll do right by.

The story (written by director Zak Hildritch) is surprisingly simple, but the richness of the characters ensures it remains captivating. Focusing on personal dilemmas and character arcs, the mysterious cataclysmic event that will end all life on earth is barely explained, but nor does it need to be — it’s the MacGuffin that sparks the personal, intimate storylines.

All this talk of character relationships may lead you to believe that this is a film short on horror. This is not the case. We get some disturbing violence as James and Rose come across individuals who have snapped in the face of inevitable doom and the bloody course they cut through the Australian landscape is horrifying. What’s more there are some wonderful visual effects courtesy of Nathan Stone’s talented team.

thesefinalhours2Yet despite the grimness of the story the film is gorgeously shot. Cinematographer Bonnie Elliot foregoes the usual gloomy look of end of the world flicks, instead embracing the blazing sun of the Australian setting, giving the film a dazzling, saturated look. It feels and looks very different to most genre efforts and ensures that Hildritch’s eye for framing hits with optimum effect.

These Final Hours was the best film I saw at FrightFest. A beautiful, heart-breaking but ultimately hopeful tour de force, it is one of the finest movies I’ve seen in a long, long time. It is an absolute must-see.