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These Final Hours – film review

July 31, 2014

THESE FINAL HOURS

A race to discover what really matters at the end of the world.

Reviewed on Friday 18th July 2014

Nathan Phillips as James, These Final Hours - Photograph by David Dare Parker

Written & directed by Zak Hilditch. Starring: Nathan Phillips, Angourie Rice, Jessica De Gouw, Kathryn Beck, Daniel Henshall and Lynette Curran. Running time: 87 mins.

An extinction-sized asteroid impacts in the North Atlantic – sending a gigantic wall     of fire circling the globe at supersonic speed. The wave of destruction will reach     Perth – Australia’s western-most city – in twelve hours. It is clear from the outset that society has already broken down, although it is unclear how long it has been since the inevitable impact of the asteroid became apparent – perhaps a matter of days or weeks. There is anarchy in the streets of Perth. A naked body hangs from a light pole. Spray-painted messages to absent loved ones adorn the walls of abandoned homes. A makeshift barricade of shopping carts blocks access to a suburban street with a hand-painted sign: ‘Stay The Fuck Away!’ Plumes of black smoke billow from Perth’s tallest buildings in the distance. Abandoned motor vehicles lay strewn across empty highways. Strung-out junkies roam the streets, hacking people to death with machetes. Strangers copulate in public. A suburban family celebrates Christmas early for the sake of the children, before euthanizing the kids and then themselves.     It is during the chaos of this societal breakdown we meet James (Nathan Phillips),     a young man cheating on his girlfriend Vicky (Kathryn Beck) with Zoe (Jessica De Gouw) – whom he learns is pregnant with his child. In a selfish move, James leaves Zoe on her own to face the end so that he may spend his final hours with Vicky, getting shit-faced at a wild end-of-the-world party held by Vicky’s brother Freddy (Daniel Henshall). While on his way to the party, James stumbles upon Rose (Angourie Rice) – a young girl in peril looking for her father and rescues her. Now James must decide within himself what is really important – to continue on to the party as planned or help Rose navigate this increasingly hostile environment and     find her father.

Australia appears to have a tradition in producing apocalyptic stories. There’s the Mad Max series of course and the recent The Rover. But it really all began with Nevil Shute’s 1957 novel ‘On The Beach’ (twice adapted for the screen in 1959 and 2000). Zak Hilditch’s fourth and most ambitious feature also recalls other ‘pre-apocalyptic’ thrillers such as Miracle Mile and Knowing – a sub-genre begun with On The Beach – films which, by their very nature; pose the question ‘what would you do if you only had hours to live?’ How would you spend the time?

This film is unapologetically disturbing and intense, the centerpiece being the backyard rave party; resembling the rave from Matrix Reloaded; only with way     more nudity. This party-to-end-all-parties also features unbridled hedonism, Russian Roulette, copious drugs and group sex. Needless to say – this is not a film for everyone. But having said this, it does feature a terrific performance from relative newcomer Angourie Rice as Rose – a definite new talent to look for in the future. Nathan Philips, on the other hand, is okay – but not nearly as convincing in the lead as James.

There is a maxim in screenwriting which states that what a character ‘wants’ propels the narrative; while what a character ‘needs’ fulfils the character arc. What James ‘wants’ is to spend his last few hours “getting fucked up” with his girlfriend (whom he doesn’t love) and to “block out” the horror of the end of the world at the party-to-end-all-parties. What he ‘needs’ is to be with the woman he loves (Zoe) – as the world comes to an end. And it is James’ interaction with Rose which ultimately brings him to this realization that his surface yearnings – the ones he thinks he wants to fulfil – are entirely superficial in comparison to what his inner soul ultimately needs.

Uncompromising, with moments of shocking violence; there is a paplable sense of dread and foreboding sustained throughout this film. And unlike Deep Impact or Armageddon – there is nothing here to save humanity from the inevitable – no Robert Duvalls or Bruce Willises. We’re basically fucked – and we know this from the start. So if you go into this aware there is ultimately no salvation for anyone, then you may have an okay time. Everyone else will probably leave the theater in a bit of a daze and in need of a couple of stiff drinks and a need to re-evaluate what’s important in their lives – which perhaps may not be such a bad thing.

3.5 stars out of 5

Star ratings: 1 – poor / 2 – below average / 3 – good / 4 – excellent / 5 – unmissable

Viewed at the Palace-Nova Eastend Cinemas, Adelaide, July 18th 2014.

Greg Moss is a film school graduate with a background in directing music videos     and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes creative people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies. Greg can also be heard on the Blu-ray commentary track for the 1980 sci-fi thriller Saturn 3, out now from Scream Factory.

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