Wednesday, July 30, 2014

These Final Hours Review

There’s something about the Western Australian sun that particularly lends itself to an apocalyptic feature film set in Perth. This is the setting we find ourselves in for Zak Hilditch and Liz Kearney’s story of the last 12 ours of life on Earth for a handful of characters.

As an asteroid heads towards the Earth and the temperatures sore we follow James (Nathan Phillips) as he struggles with his impending death and that of everything and everyone around him. Adamant that he will not feel anything when the end finally arrives; he leaves the woman he’s with to go to a friends party and get wasted. On the way he meets Rose (Angourie Rice), a little girl trying to find her father so that she can spend her final hours with him.

These Final Hours is currently playing at Luna Cinema’s. You can get tickets here. Some selected other cinema’s are also screening it for a limited time.

Check out for more amazing content on the lead up to the events of the film that really build the world either before or after you see the movie. But for a little more of a spoiler free review, follow me under the cut.

It’s not every day you go to a low budget Australian film and walk away struck by how solid it was. There’s often something wrong, whether it’s a poor casting choice, limited sets and landscapes or a flawed and dragged out plot. Thankfully, These Final Hours doesn’t fall into any of those traps.

Film writer and director Zak Hilditch and producer Liz Kearney were not afraid to take advice and make the best movie they could possibly make. It’s a testimony to their creative flexibility that they were not precious about scenes that didn’t work and trusted their team and their crew to help them tell the story they wanted to tell in the best possible way. The plot flows logically and develops the characters authentically in such a short space of time. There are no moments that feel too grand or too subtle or indulgent.

Leading man Nathan Phillips does a wonderful job of displaying the gambit of emotions that one might go through of one was faced with the long wait to their death and the death of all those they love or have relationships with. He struggles with who he is and what the world around him has become, all the while trying not to care about anything, because if the world is ending then surely there’s nothing to care about.

In all of this turmoil and darkness he saves a young girl, and begrudgingly tries to reconcile his desire to die as if nothing ever mattered and his deep sense that everything does still matter and that his choices haven’t always been the best.

Angourie Rice is stunning as little Rose. The strength she displays in the face of so much death, destruction and doom reminds us that sometimes it’s the children who know what is really important and who can give us the space to remember who we are and what is important in those critical periods of our lives.

Perth born juggernaut, Jessica De Goux makes an appearance as James’ lover Zoe, who is faced with both death and the absence of the man that she loves. De Goux gives a beautifully complex performance full of emotion and stillness. Even though she does not play a leading role in the film, her presence is integral to James’ inner turmoil and perhaps quest of some kind of redemption.

Perth works perfectly as both the urban wasteland of the end of days and the tranquil resting place of so many lost souls. We see some great locations and are asked to remember the beauty in things while we have them. The house and grounds at Rose’s aunts house we perfect for the tone of what was coming.

The personal details scattered throughout each location and house make the sense of reality and of loss palpable. They add to the oppressive tones throughout the film. The filmmakers and set designers show just enough to make the unfolding events hurt in precisely the right way. At times we are confronted by the images that we see and at other by the images that what we don’t see conjures in our heads.

Freddie’s party brings the sense oppression and doom to another level and uses completely different colours, dialogue and plot points to do so, creating a great contrast between the chaos of the party and the tranquillity of the beach house. It mimics the swings in emotions that our characters, particularly James, are going through and the spectacle of what is about to take place.

These Final Hours gives us pause to reflect on what we would do if we knew the world was coming to an end, on what we might think is important and what we might regret. It forces us to reconcile with an un-glamorous version of the end of life and confront ourselves with the possibility that we might not be living the life that we want.

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