Monday, 30 November 2015

Film Review - 'These Final Hours'

These Final Hours is a film based on a very simple premise - the question of what we would do with the time we had left if we knew that we were going to die. It's probably not a terribly original premise for a film, sure - but, it's still one that seems worth returning to, on occasion. On top of that, there's also the small matter of the end of the world - as we find ourselves on the verge of an unstoppable extinction-level event - as a massive meteor collides with the Earth somewhere in the North Atlantic.

Picking up moments after the actual impact (and, presumably, after days of escalating fear and panic as the meteor approached), and with approximately twelve hours left until a wave of fire and ash sweeps over Australia, These Final Hours brings the audience into a world were most seem to have already given up entirely. Suicide has become depressingly common - as have acts of violence and depravity. For James (Nathan Phillips), though, the only real concern is making it to a massive party, where he can spend his final hours making sure that he wont actually feel anything when the end finally comes - even if it means leaving his girlfriend, Zoe (Jessica De Gouw), behind.

On his way to the party, though, the limits of James' selfishness are tested when he comes across Rose (Angourie Rice), a young girl recently kidnapped by two men. Realising that even he can't quite bring himself to leave the girl to whatever fate her kidnappers have planned, he sets out to rescue her.

At first, James is obviously unwilling to fully commit to helping Rose find her way back to her family - preferring, instead, to hand her off to anyone else who might be willing to help her. But, in time, the expected happens - and, James' conscience and compassion win out.

These Final Hours is a film that feels oddly disjointed, and almost episodic, at times - but, given the film's basic premise, that actually seems to work rather well. As the audience follows James and Rose on their own journey, their own story will occasionally briefly intersect with those of others - which are no more or less important. There's the bleak tale of a father who finds himself conflicted over whether killing his family before the end comes is the right thing to do. Then, there's the slightly more humorous tale of James' own mother, who seems perfectly content to spend her final hours drinking wine and working on her jigsaw puzzles. And, along with that, we also have the occasional cuts to a radio broadcast, where the broadcaster recounts what he has learnt about the end of the world, and shares his own final thoughts with whoever might be listening. It's actually a fairly effective way of giving the film a greater sense of scale on what I assume must have been a tight budget.

Unfortunately, the film hits a bit of a low point when the pair actually finally manage to reach the epic 'end of the world' party - with scenes of hedonistic debauchery that are so over-played that it quickly becomes a bit ridiculous. There's casual nudity and public sex, abuse of alcohol and various drugs, obnoxiously loud music, and even a game of Russian roulette to keep things interesting.

It is also here that the audience is treated to the performances of Kathryn Beck as Jame's other girlfriend, Vicky, and Daniel Henshall as his best friend, Freddy - the man behind the party. Both are clearly doing their best to portray that sense of frantic desperation that, I imagine, many would genuinely feel in a situation like this - but, both also seem to simply take it too far. Much like the scenes of the party, itself, their performances start to border on cringe-inducing.

While it is, of course, more than likely that the audience was meant to be a bit repulsed by these scenes (or, at the very least, we weren't actually meant to see the party as a genuinely worthwhile way to spend our final hours of life), it feels like the film-makers were simply trying too hard to get that point across. To be fair, though, this particular sequence also gives us the slightly unnerving scenes of a desperate and drug-addled woman convinced that Rose was actually her own, presumably deceased, daughter - so, it's not a total loss.

These Final Hours is, obviously, a very bleak film (the idea of a man just trying to get to a party before the world ends might feel more like the premise for a comedy, on paper - but, it's really not played that way). But, it's also a film broken up moments of genuine warmth - and, even, occasional humour. It's also a film that is effectively carried by its two leads, Nathan Phillips and Angourie Rice, who each do a fantastic job. Sure, it might be fair to wonder why anything that is shown in this film actually matters, when the film's obvious end-point seems to be the end of the world - but, that it does actually matter, in spite of this, is also the point that the film is obviously trying to make.

The film has its problems, sure - and, it also might not come across as all that original, when compared to films dealing with similar subject matter. But, there is also quite a bit to like, here - These Final Hours is a film that is, quite often, genuinely compelling.

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