Release: 8th August 2016
Format: BR / DVD / DGTL
These Final Hours explores what you would do with your last moments on Earth. With only twelve hours remaining before the end of the world, a self-obsessed young man (Nathan Phillips) makes his way to the party-to-end-all-parties. On the way through a world turned wild, he saves the life of Rose (Angourie Rice), a little girl desperately searching for her father. Their relationship ultimately leads him on the path to redemption.
The cinematic world of Australia is a very wild place indeed. For decades it’s been a nest of hostile lunatics, barren wastelands and flamboyant eccentrics. For his latest project, it seems that director Zak Hilditch has gathered every lunatic on offer to explore life in Western Australia on the last day of human existence. It’s not a new premise, neither is it particularly well explored, but what These Final Hours does accomplish is that it inspires hope in the face of extinction.
One of the film’s central conceits is that it looks upon well adjusted or overly selfish people as predictable. Families resort to murder-suicides, while the predatory and the young turn to hedonistic Purge-style living in their final day. It seems that only James, our protagonist, is capable of experiencing something in the middle. His gradual ascent from one end of the scale to the other, and then back along the way, seems like a natural progression considering the company he keeps in young Rose. But it’s a journey reserved solely for him. Hilditch’s apocalypse is divided into the meek, the fearful and the greedy; which lends itself to an anthology of frame stories that James finds himself dipping in and out of. The sporadic narrative provided by a disembodied radio DJ proves a nice touch in terms of keeping tone and pace.
Restraint is key in making These Final Hours feel a little unique. Hilditch uses jump cuts, soft focus and sound to illustrate a world filled with carnage and death. He is surprisingly sparing with emotional impact, leaving a lot of the story to be told in reactions rather than experiences. It is a mature and responsible approach to the themes of suicide and loss, while also building a very isolating and oddly quiet environment for the central pairing of James and Rose. The 2nd act party roars onto the screen like a jolt of lightening. It is here that Hilditch throws caution to the wind, and practices an exercise in sensory overload. The result is that initially we see the grotesque side of where James was once at, but no longer finds himself a part of. But it plays for too long and becomes a gratuitous cliché. Like James, we cannot get away from the scene soon enough and strangely welcome the unexplored and seemingly less threatening wider world.
Although the closing moments play less well, it is actually the second from last scene which hits hardest, proving that films about the end of days do not necessarily have to be riddled with gore, sadness and despair. These Final Hours is far from a road movie or buddy comedy or even coming-of-age tale, but what it can claim to be is a pondering on the power of love in times of insurmountable gloom.
Film Grade: C-
Some, err, pictures.
Special Features Grade: F+
Lacking a wide appeal, These Final Hours will no doubt fall under most people’s radar. It is a shame, because in spite of its conventional DNA, there are small and memorable moments throughout.