The Darkest Hour: Special Edition (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 6, 2012 by  

“The Darkest Hour” is a popcorn alien infestation film with uninteresting characters, spotty acting and lackadaisical pacing.   There was too much sacrifice into making this film set in Russia to appeal to an American or International audience that the film would have been best being an all Russian film, as the characters and the us vs. them storyline would seem much more plausible and exciting.

Images courtesy of © 2011 Summit Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Darkest Hour: Special Edition


DURATION: 89 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Espanol Dolby Digital 5.1, Subtitles: English SDH, Espanol

COMPANY:Summit Entertainment

RATED: PG-13 (Sci-Fi Action and Some Language)

Release Date: April 10, 2012

Directed by Chris Gorak

Screenplay by Jon Spaihts

Story by Leslie Bohem, M.T. Ahern and Jon Spaihts

Produced by Timur Bekmambetov, Tom Jacobsen

Executive Producer: Monni Wills

Co-Producer: Iva Stromilova, Lulu Zezza

Music by Tyler Bates

Cinematography by Scott Kevan

Edited by Priscilla Nedd-Friendly, Fernando Vilena, Doobie White

Casting by Venus Kanani Mary Vernieu

Production Design by Valeri Viktorov

Art Direction by Ricky Eyres

Costume Design by Varvara Avdyushko


Emil Hirsh as Sean

Olivia Thirlby as Natalie

Max Minghella as Ben

Rachael Taylor a Anne

Joel Kinnaman as Skyler

Veronika Ozerova as Vika

Dato Bakhtadze as Sergei

Yuriy Kutsenko as Matvei

Niolay Efremov as Sasha

Vladimir Jaglich as Boris

Artur Smolyaninov as Yuri

Anna Roudakova as Tess

Pyotr Fyodorov as Anton Batkin

The electrifying science-fiction thriller The Darkest Hour arrives on 3D Blu-ray™, Blu-ray and DVD April 10th from Summit Entertainment. Emile Hirsch (Speed Racer, Into the Wild), Max Minghella (Ides of March, The Social Network) and Olivia Thirlby (TV’s “Bored to Death,” Dredd) star in this story of five young people who find themselves stranded in Moscow and fight to survive in the wake of a devastating alien attack.

With Moscow’s classic beauty as the backdrop, The Darkest Hour features mind-blowing special effects from the minds of visionary filmmakers Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) and Chris Gorak (Fight Club, Minority Report).  The suspense never lets up as the invaders begin their assault on Earth, targeting the planet’s power supply.

The United States is known for creating their fair share of alien invasion films but this time around, with producer and filmmaker Timur Bekmambetov (“Wanted”, “Night Watch”, “Day Watch”, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”) involved, his goal was to create a Russian alien invasion film through a perspective by Russians.

But to make it a global film and with only a budget of $30 million, Bekmabetov would enlist Chris Gorak (art director for films such as “Minority Report”, “Fight Club”, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”) to direct and Scott Kevan (“Underworld: Awakening”, “The Losers”, “Fame”) as cinematographer and the film woud utilize Bekmabetov’s studio and filming would take place in Moscow.

The film would star American talent Emile Hirsch (“Milk”, “Into the Wild”, “Speed Racer”), Olivia Thirlby (“The Wackness”, “Juno”, “No Strings Attached”), Max Minghella (“The Social Network”, “The Ides of March”), Rachael Taylor (“Transformers”, “Shutter”, “Bottle Shock”), Joel Kinnaman (“The Killing”, “Easy Money”, “Safe House”) and Russian talents Veronika Ozerova and Dato Bakhtadze (“Wanted”, “Crash”).

“The Darkest Hour” would earn $64 million in the box office and now the 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD will be released in April 2012.

“The Darkest Hour” begins with two American men, Ben (played by Max Minghella) and Sean (played by Emile Hirsch) who created a popular social media software, are traveling to Moscow in hopes of selling it.  But when they arrive, the two are upset that Skyler (played by Joel Kinnaman), a Swedish businessman along with the Russian team have sold it.

Upset about what had took place, both men head to a club where two American women, Natalie (played by Olivia Thirlby) and Anne (played by Rachael Taylor) are also present.  While both women are being hit on by Russian men, eventually both Sean and Ben start having a conversation with both women and as the four take a picture together, the lights inside the bar go off.

The four head outside and what they see is a orange rift in the night sky and glowing orange blobs of light descend towards the Earth.

As crowds gather around the light, a Russian police officer goes to confront it but is disintegrated upon contact.  The lights then begin to disintegrate anything in their way and Sean, Ben, Natalie, Anne and Skyler lock themselves in the storage room of the bar for several days.  When they come out, all that is left is ashes of the deceased and Moscow has literally been turned into a ghost town.

Knowing that the aliens are trying to kill all living beings, the group hopes to make it to the American Embassy and hopefully find a way to get back home.  But will these five individuals find a way to make it to the American Embassy and will they discover any more survivors?


“The Darkest Hour” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1).  The cinematography definitely showcases the beautiful structures of Moscow, there is a good amount of detail when it comes to structures, clothing and because of the CG extra-terrestrials emitting this glowing orange, there are times of beautiful vibrant colors and for the most part, a good balance of digital cinematography with CG effects.

Black levels are nice and deep, skin tones look natural and I did not detect any banding or artifacts during my viewing of the film.


“The Darkest Hour” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and Espanol Dolby Digital 5.1.  When it comes to audio, although this is not directed by Timur Bekmambetov, because it was produced by him, you expect a lot of action scenes and immersive audio.

The film utilizes the surround channels and LFE throughout the film, may it be the music and its bass, the sounds of disintegration courtesy of the aliens or even the many machine guns or shots at the aliens to the collapse of structures, the biggest positive of this film will be its lossless audio track.

Subtitles are presented in English SDH and Espanol.


“The Darkest Hour” comes with the following special features:

  • Survivors – (8:10) A short film showcasing survivors from different countries using radio broadcasts from Tokyo in destroying the aliens.
  • The Darkest Hour: Visualizing an Invasion – (12:09) A featurette about the visual effects of “The Darkest Hour”.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes – (4:48) Six deleted and extended scenes with optional commentary by director Chris Gorak.
  • Audio Commentary – Director Chris Gorak talks about the cast, shooting in Moscow, using CG the challenges involved in the making of the film due to the Russian Wildfires of 2010.


“The Darkest Hour: Special Edition” comes with a slipcover.

As a sci-fi fan, especially fan of alien infestation films, there have been films that captures the horror of an alien infestation, may it be the 1996 film “Independence Day” or the 2011 film “Battle: Los Angeles”, part of the reason why these films succeed is the use of star power and a large budget dedicated to the films visual effects.

While there are alien infestation films that have been shot in a low budget and without star power such as the exciting 2011 UK film “Attack the Block”, at least the pacing of the film was consistent, it was funny and it was going somewhere.

Unfortunately, “The Darkest Hour” doesn’t seem to be going anywhere and the characters don’t grab you at all.

Part of the challenge that filmmaker Chris Gorak and Timur Bekmambelov had when making this film were scheduling delays (due to the Russian Wildfires), a budget of $30 million and the lack of major star power.  While Emile Hirsch has received attention for his roles in “Milk” and “Into the Wild”, unlike American alien infestation films with American bravado, this Russian film focused on survival of weak Americans who survived thanks to the Russian people.

The film is supposed to be a Russian perspective, a Russian version of an alien infestation film and while I didn’t mind the weakness and whining of the American characters, the film had forced dialogue that made things seem too unnatural and thus produced spotty acting.

But where the screenplay fails the viewer is that the storyline and its characters are not really going anywhere.  It’s a survival film that seems more like “Cloverfield”-Lite and because the characters are not so captivating, you just wonder to yourself of “how they will die?”.

There are also some problematic issues such as a blast that throws Sean and Natalie, who were standing next to each other, could have kept everyone within the same vicinity but for Natalie, somehow she has ended a half mile away.  There are scenes that showcase the relationship between Natalie and Anne and why they went to Moscow.  There are times you think the two are hiding something but yet nothing is ever mentioned.

Where the film does work well in a Russian perspective is showcasing the beautiful structures of Moscow, showing the CG devastation of Moscow, showing Russian heroes who will do what the can to help these Americans get to safety. If anything, the Russian characters seem to be much more intriguing and personally, “The Darkest Hour” could have been a much more enticing film if it was a full-on Russian alien infestation film utilizing an all Russian cast.  It’s one of the things that I have loved about Timur Bekmambetov’s “Night Watch” and “Day Watch” films, it’s Russian sci-fi with Russian talent.  It seemed more plausible, much more exciting.

But I can understand the producers wanting to make their money back by making this film more International by using an American cast with English dialogue.

As for the Blu-ray release, “The Darkest Hour” no doubt looks wonderful on Blu-ray and the lossless soundtrack is fantastic!  There are a few special features including the short story “The Darkest Hour: Survivors”, showcasing people of other countries fighting against the aliens.

Overall, “The Darkest Hour” is a popcorn alien infestation film with uninteresting characters, spotty acting and lackadaisical pacing.   There was too much sacrifice into making this film set in Russia to appeal to an American or International audience that the film would have been best being an all Russian film, as the characters and the us vs. them storyline would seem much more plausible and exciting.

While I can recommend this film to those who love alien infestation films, it’s simply not one of the better alien infestation films to be released in the U.S.

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