Is there anybody out there? It’s happened!
Critically acclaimed is not a phrase that can often be associated with films that I review on this site, but that’s the case with this film as numerous critics praised These Final Hours.
I am exceptionally excited by this as it recently appeared in a Watchmojo video for the best films about the end of the world and it looked to have considerable more substance than Hollywood films about the same subject matter, and that in many ways sums up why I love independent and low budget films. Whilst there are obviously exceptions, these types of films are often forced to make it about the characters rather than the effects, whereas Hollywood is completely the opposite, focusing on the explosions and the characters are almost secondary.
Unlike a lot of other films that I have reviewed on this site, I’ve actually got a friend that has seen this and they praised it, and that’s ultimately what encouraged me to watch it…..this is the same person that said I would hate Bloom, so I trust his judgement.
Ten minutes ago a meteor hit Earth in the north Atlantic and a giant wall of fire is sweeping the world. In Australia, they calculate that they have less than twelve hours to live before the wall reaches them and James (Philips) decides that after having sex with Zoe (De Gouw) one final time, he is going to attend an epic party. She tries to get him to stay by telling him that she is pregnant, although he fails to see the point in telling him that news given that they’ll all be dead by the end of the day, and he leaves.
Whilst trying to make it to the party he sees Rose (Rice) being dragged into a house by two men. He responds to her call for help and rescues her. She asks James to take her to Roleystone to be with her father, but instead he takes her to his sister’s house, only to discover that she and her husband killed themselves after murdering their children in order to escape the pain of the wall. Now James is determined to get Rose to her father before getting to the party.
As countries around the world slowly succumb to the wall, James tries all he can to get Rose to her father before the end, whilst also attending the party and realising that he didn’t know some people as well as he thought he did.
Better than Hollywood films of the same type?
Whilst These Final Hours has it’s flaws, I did find myself more than gripped to the screen for most of the 86 minute run time.
Let’s start with the very beginning of the film. The first few minutes of the film are all dedicated to people finding out what has happened and everything turning into what could effectively be defined as marshall law. The music that plays in the background is beautiful and haunting at the same time, whilst at the same time having disturbingly poignant radio broadcasts going through the details, all spoken in a resigned fashion. The opening few minutes is nigh on perfect for the film’s tone and situation.
Whilst the tone quickly changes and doesn’t return until the equally as poignant and well thought out final scene, the radio broadcasts are kept throughout the film, with the station popping up at well chosen points to give you an update with how far the wall of fire has progressed, and there’s something terrifying about hearing which countries have fallen, knowing that your own demise will soon at at hand. It brings a sense of not only time, but how close the wall of fire is actually getting in terms of distance, something that’s not usually considered in this situation.
It makes you question what you would do in that situation, especially as you’re completely helpless in this situation. There is literally nothing you can do and unlike some other films in which you can run from the danger facing you, such as San Andreas, 2012, etc, these characters have one of two choices, accept their fate and live out the limited remainder of their lives, or kill themselves early so they don’t have to face the pain of being burnt alive. The latter of which brings someone of the more interesting scenes in the film.
The moment when James sees that his sister has performed a murder-suicide reminded me a lot of the scene in 28 Days Later in which Jim found his parents had killed themselves, whereas there is the complete flip side of the ending your life early side of things when James makes it to the party, only to see that Russian Roulette has become a joyful spectator sport. It’s quite interesting to see how different people react.
However, away from the reflective storyline and character development,
The first flaw is the character of Rose. I found it a bit strange that the official plot summary described James as a self-centred character, and yet he takes the last few hours of his life to help this girl find her family, a girl who is so one-dimensional and self-absorbed that she doesn’t seem to grasp that if people only have a few hours to live, they might have things that they want to do that don’t involve her. Whilst she isn’t played badly, the character is so poorly written that I genuinely don’t care about her part in the story and she is used for pretty much nothing more than giving James something to do.
The second flaw is that despite that image above and the one below not appearing to show it, there is a severe orange filter portrayed in the entire film and it just seems overwhelming unnecessary. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely not the first time that I’ve seen this technique used in films, which the Saw franchise using a green filter, Gone Girl having a blueish filter and various other examples, but for me it was unnecessary. Other than that though the film is visually pretty decent, especially when you finally see the giant wall of fire at the end.
There are parts of me that really want to give this the approval stamp. The opening and ending are both excellent are far more appropriate in terms of tone than better known films. However, the character of Rose is also making me consider not to put the stamp. I write this sentence not knowing whether I will give the stamp and will probably only decide just before I press submit.
Infact, I am not going to give it for the simple reason that I only want to give the stamp to those films that may have flaws, but at least they’re only minor flaws. Having one of the two main characters be as poorly written as Rose is a big sin for me and as good as the non-Rose scenes are, she ruins most scenes that she is in.
By all means, give it a watch, but you’ll be much better off if you skip through scenes she is in.