In forty-eight hours the world is going to end. This isn’t a maybe, this isn’t a could be, this is a proven certainty. These are the final hours on Earth; humanity is soon to be extinct. Knowing the end is nigh has seen society react in strange and unpredictable ways. Laws have no meaning anymore, life even less so, as families are being found dead at a regular rate, the result of murder/suicides in an attempt to be together at the end or to have some control over it. Other people are just trying to forget the impending doom and want to go out on a high, with huge drug fueled parties celebrating the end of the world becoming commonplace. There are also those people who try and find some solace in these final hours as they search out the most important people in their lives in an attempt to say goodbye one last time. When “These Final Hours” begins we are introduced to James, a man who is just out to have a good time in life. He takes nothing seriously and lacks all responsibility. He is the kind of guy that doesn’t fall in love, and as such, he currently has two girls in his life at the same time. James is furious that Zoe has just informed him that he would have been a dad if the world wasn’t to end tomorrow; he cannot understand how that information is important now and all he wants to do is leave and head off to a party he had planned to attend (where his other girl is at). He storms off in his car, leaving his pregnant girlfriend to fend for herself in these final hours and while on his journey he comes across a young girl who has obviously been taken against her will, and is about to be abused by a couple of sickos. It is not usually in James’s nature to help, but even he cannot leave a young girl to be raped. He saves the girl, whose name is Rose, but in doing so James then becomes responsible for her. Rose just wants to find her father so she can be with him when it happens, but James is still determined to get to his party. He tells Rose he will take her to the party where she can find someone there to help her find her father, however when James finally reaches his destination, he understands the desperation and fear on display and just how shallow and pathetic his life has been. He has been selfish in life but wants to do something good before he dies and the best way to do this is to help this young girl and be with the people who matter to him most.
“These Final Hours” turned out to be quite the surprise. I was not expecting much from it at all but it turned out to be a great and affecting apocalyptic thriller. I was really impressed by the way director Zak Hilditch did not sugar coat anything at all. This is the most serious of situations and is explored as such, and it goes into some very dark places (often involving children). The scene that takes place in the library where we witness the parents struggling to kill their children is both horrifying and heartbreaking, but at the same time comes across as very real. In fact I think Hilditch does a fantastic job of exploring and examining all of the possibilities and actions mankind could take in the final hours of its existence.
The fact that the end is a certainty was something that I really liked. There is no last ditch effort to send Bruce Willis into space to attempt to save the day, while Ben Affleck gets out the animal crackers; “These Final Hours” is not that kind of film. It cares less about the spectacle and more about the human interactions during such dire circumstances, as well as examining people realizing just who is the most important to them in their lives. This last point really got me thinking about the fleeting nature of friendship and just how short an amount of time people actually mean something to us in our lives. We all have lives that are constantly evolving and are on the move and as such we come into contact with many people in our lives. Some even become so important that in that time we cannot imagine our lives without that person being in it. Two years later, after life intervenes, you may barely be speaking to these people anymore that once seemed so special. I look at my wedding album and at the time I could not imagine this happiest of events taking place without those people there to share in it, and yet seven years later, I barely speak to any of them.
The star of “These Final Hours” is Nathan Phillips and he is fantastic. He knows that James is a loser and plays him as such. He is such a selfish character looking out for only himself, and a good time, but he actually grows throughout the film when he realizes just how flawed he is when he attempts to find some redemption whilst finally helping someone else. Phillips wisely doesn’t portray him suddenly as some great hero; he is still flawed and he makes some mistakes, but his eyes are finally open to his problems, it is just a shame that it is now too late to change. Phillips’s equally great co-star is young Angourie Rice. Her performance is one that is above her age as her character has to deal with some very adult situations along her journey. Thankfully Rice isn’t one of those cutesy child actors, rather her performance is grounded in reality and she comes across with a real honesty about the situation she is facing. She understands she is going to die and her only wish is to be with her father when it happens. Actually this is another strong point to “These Final Hours”, Hilditch isn’t afraid to show the reality of children suffering during these horrible times. Rose has to deal with abandonment, abuse (both physical and substance), as well as coming to terms with her own death and those of her family.
Shot in Perth, “These Final Hours” looks amazing and suitably apocalyptic. The beautiful widescreen photography from Bonnie Elliot really captures the expanses of the land as well as how lifeless and quiet it looks with everyone fleeing for their lives. The use of reds and yellows is particularly well done at expressing the impending doom, with the sky slowly turning red, a very nice touch. Thankfully the use of CGI has not been overdone to the point that it no longer becomes effective. The effects are subtly done and used sparingly which ultimately makes them more successful because they are not drawing attention to themselves. While the finale of the film echoes Lars Von Trier’s “Melancholia”, it doesn’t make it any less beautiful or heartfelt; it is simply superb.
Overall I was pleasantly surprised by “These Final Hours”; it turned out to be a wonderful and thoughtful movie experience. With the current glut of apocalyptic features, I am hoping that “These Final Hours” does not get overlooked because this is a superior genre effort that deserves to be seen on the big screen. The fact that the film is also Australian is just icing on the cake.