Australia | 2013 | Directed by Zak Hilditch
Logline: With only hours left before the end of the world a grim and self-involved young man leaves his lover for a huge party to reunite with his girlfriend, but finds his attitude changed by a young girl trying to reunite with her father.
It’s a shame this great Australian genre flick was burdened with a very mediocre trailer, because Zak Hilditch has written and directed a thoroughly gripping, visually stunning, powerful drama-thriller that slaps you around, and yet, ultimately embraces you in an apocalyptic gesture of doomed romance. It’s one of the most affecting, least seen Aussie releases of the past few years.
Mind you there would definitely be those that find it too bleak and nihilistic, its themes of suicide, drug abuse, and apathy overwhelming and unpleasant. But hell, this is the kind of take-no-prisoners science-fiction-esque nightmare that's right up my damnation alley! Hilditch has brought together a great cast, all of who deliver excellently. The production values are solid, with special note to the sunburnt cinematography and agile camerawork courtesy of Bonnie Elliott, a veteran of countless shorts and numerous documentaries.
Hilditch could be accused of a hollow narrative, but it is precisely this minimal plot, and only a few key players that make These Final Hours work on such an immediate and intimate level. In a beachfront property, after making love, James (Nathan Philips) abandons Zoe (Jessica De Gouw), claiming he must return to his girlfriend Vicky (Kathryn Beck) and the end-of-the-world party she has helped to organise with her brother Freddy (Daniel Henshall). James feels he’s capable only of blocking out the impending doom by getting trashed, he wants no other wayward responsibility.
On the car journey to his Perth destination James rescues Rose (Angourie Rice), a girl of ten or so, from the clutches of evil men. She wants to be with her father, but James is intent on his own agenda. At the party, the shit hits the fan. James is forced to flee, and is confronted with the option to redeem his own selfish behaviour.
These Final Hours represents the last twelve as the storm of a nuclear holocaust spreads virulently across the globe, having wiped out Western Europe and North America, it is on its way down under, fast approaching Southern Asia. The distinctive gravelly voice of David Field announces the apocalyptic spread over an AM station, a kind of narrator of hard truths. As the sun bears down over Western Australia, James drives hard and fast to rectify his actions.
There are a few particularly notable two-hander scenes; James and a strung-out Vicky arguing in the bunker her brother has prepared below the party house, James fast realising his mistake, Vicky remaining blind to everything. Later James reluctantly visits his estranged mother (Lynette Curan) and they share an awkward, but endearing few moments of reconcilation. It is the only time we see James smile. He and Rose share a particularly emotional scene of resignation.
If you’re lucky you might be able to catch These Final Hours in the cinema where the sound and image is best appreciated. Like Burning Man, this is vivid, captivating Australian drama that demands to be seen; at once sensual and sweaty, urgent and uncompromising.