Audiences across the world never seem the slake their thirst for the apocalypse. Movie after movie after movie are made depicting the end of the world, or nearly on the brink. You’d think given the abundance of world ending tales of woe we (the audience) would become hardened to its tropes, accustomed to the standard conventions of finite time on Earth, that filmmakers would give up on trying to create a new feeling or impression of the end.
They don’t. They don’t because zombies and vampires and supernatural calamities are an entertaining way to visit terrible ends to our species, without the underlying reality of possibility. We love our apocalyptic tales dressed up in monsters and otherworldly themes that stand no chance of happening in the real. When we do get a tale of the end that tries to stay grounded it’s usually tempered with hope and light. A little cream added to cut down the bitterness of our beverage. Something to take the edge off. Dull the blade so to speak.
Not in this review. These Final Hours is a razor sharp depiction of life at the end. A beautiful and smartly rendered snapshot of how people might react in the face of complete destruction and devastation. A film that shows the hidden nature of humanity. Exposes the fragility of societal bonds. Shows just how quickly the social contract becomes null and void in the face of extinction. Makes you ask the question – If the world were coming to end, what would my priorities be?
The story follows a young man (Nathan Phillips) as those around prepare for an Extinction Level Event to reach Australia. In his quest for a friend’s end of the world party (so he can drug out and enjoy his final hours) he is set on a road of redemption after saving the life of a little girl (Angourie Rice) who has become separated from her father.
These Final Hours is a tour de force. Writer/director Zak Hilditch does a masterful job depicting Perth during the final twelve hours of it’s existence, creating a landscape that is all at once eerie, haunting, deadly, and fascinating. So many filmmakers are tempted to dilute the atmosphere with endless carnage and action; over the top spectacle from beginning to end, as if to constantly remind the audience that things are horrible. That hell on Earth has come.
Hilditch does it right. Relying mostly on subtle set pieces depicting people at their best and worst. Images of what people have left behind. Messages written on sidewalks, cars and garage doors. The occasional remains of those who’ve either succumb to violence or their own self inflicted fate. The subtle environment makes all the more effective those moments when brutality and insanity take center stage for necessity of a scene. The entire landscape is so masterfully staged I found myself wanting to walk among the streets as a ghost, observing, glimpsing the most realistic depiction of the apocalypse I’ve ever seen on screen.
Adding to the canvas are the performances of an amazing cast of characters living out their time in Hilditch’s tragedy. Nathan Phillips is simply amazing. Playing James, a man who’s never really grown up or taken responsibility for himself. A character who isn’t a hero, isn’t an anti-hero, but just a normal man. Scared, lonely, unsure of himself from beginning to end. His uneasiness and uncertainty is so believable in the context of this film that you feel everything he feels as he’s torn between doing the right thing and doing nothing. After all, if the world is ending why does the right thing matter?
Balancing out Phillips performance is Angourie Rice, playing Rose the little girl whose fate is altered by a chance encounter. Seeing the end of the world through the eyes of child, she provides a counterbalance in perspective that is powerful, emotional, and devastating.
These Final Hours pulls no punches. It’s an end of the world story from beginning to end. It doesn’t cheat. It shows the best of people in the worst of times and it does it extremely well. With grace, beauty and brutality.
This is now my favorite movie in it’s genre and the best Australian film I’ve seen to date. I truly hope those filmmakers from down under keep at it because they are blowing Hollywood out of the water.