- These Final Hours
- Written by
- Zak Hilditch
- Directed by
- Zak Hilditch
- Nathan Phillips, Jessica De Gouw, Angourie Rice
Nothing says reset quite like an apocalypse. If it's a survivable one, the questions are who will live and what new society will they build? If it's not, which it most decidedly isn't in the Australian countdown-to-oblivion movie These Final Hours, it's even more to the point: What kind of person are you going to be in the end?
At the beginning of this end, James (Nathan Phillips) looks as if he's going to be a self-centred prick: With knowledge that the meteor that's collided with the planet is sending ultimate wipe-out waves in his country's direction, he boffs one girlfriend (Jessica De Gouw), snorts a rail or two of blow, guzzles some firewater and drives off to meet girlfriend No. 2 (Kathryn Beck) at an end-of-the-world party.
But a funny thing happens on the way. While dodging various thugs and lunatics already amok on the streets of suburban Perth, James notes an abduction in progress and rescues 12-year-old Rose (Angourie Rice) from a horrendous fate. She wants the man to take her to her family. He wants to party like it's 1999. His decision, and how he arrives at it, will be These Final Hours's way of testing its protagonist's reset button. At the literal end of the day – all days – will it be man up or party down?
In describing a world coming apart at the seams, writer-director Zak Hilditch opts for a frantic, amped-up style that suggests chaos of both the internal and external variety. At first, the boundaries between the world and James's super-ripped perception of it are blurred, which effectively strands us somewhere between objective certainty that all hell's breaking loose and subjective stoner paranoia. But with Rose's arrival, clarity slams home and the movie swivels on its perceptual axis: Like James, we're looking at the sheer lunacy of humanity unhinged – nowhere more frightfully evident than at his rich buddy's grotesque poolside end-of-the-world bacchanal – and the path to righteousness shines as brightly as the blinding summer sun. It's time to hit the road and get our girl home.
Because the present is so fleeting and the future so final, Hilditch's movie has little time for the past, and that only matters insofar as it might have helped us to invest a little more in James's Judgment Day rebirth. As it is, we know so little about him that his turnabout from party animal to paternal avatar is less a matter of spiritual stirring than sudden U-turn, as though one of those fat lines of coke was laced with some form of chemical redemption.
At once bleak and hopeful, despairing and inspirational, These Final Hours may do an admirable job of suggesting a world on the brink on a meagre budget – the emptiness of the streets and sparse glimpses of rogue humanity suggest a place where people have locked down inside, awaiting the inevitable – but the landscape it ultimately fails to escape is less the one beyond the windshield than the one unavoidably evoked by the mere premise: that entire generic world of pre-and-postapocalyptic movies past and present, wherein the mere spectacle of intergenerational nomads navigating the fallen world – The Road, The Book of Eli, The Walking Dead, The Rover (itself another recent Australian variation) – has become somewhat commonplace in pop culture. It's a drive through familiar terrain, the end of the world as we already know it.