The publicity of These Final Hours reveals the protagonist, holding a girl in his arms, as the world burns in the background. The immediate thought is survival and saving the young girl he carries. This may be considered a minor spoiler, but revealing the context of that particular scene may shape your anticipation.
The girl has been knocked out by drugs handed to her, at a rave-orgy, by a loopy woman convinced she’s her daughter. Sadly, though These Final Hours has a killer end-of-days hook, it’s difficult to wade through the pessimistic world created, unlikable ruffian lead and frenetic editing that dominates so much of the film. These Final Hours was a truly terrific idea but it flops at the first hurdle.
The world is over. Twelve hours left and you, and all your family, will be wiped out. There’s no getting away from it in Australia. These are your last moments on earth as an asteroid has hit the North Atlantic. James (Nathan Phillips) sits on a bed, sweaty, and looks to the woman sat beside. They fuck. Then we’re told he has a girlfriend and a party to attend, so he heads out. We cut back to this moment time and again as James treks the roads in search of hope. In a gory moment of panic, we see the horror of the world. Families chant prayers on corners, lovers fuck in the streets and suicide is committed from tall street lights. There’s no uncertainty that the world will be over and many have turned to their darkest demons to go out with a bang. Rose (Angourie Rice), a kidnapped child, is the unlikely comrade to James’ journey after he saves her from two dirty old men. Her innocence and chatty nature gives him hope as he tries to find her father.
As expected, his journey isn’t direct. James is tackling his own fears, though we’re never entirely sure what they are. Midway through, as he planned, the two visit a party. The small girl walks through the manic house as naked bodies wreath on the dance floor and screw on the sofa. Meeting James’ randy girlfriend, he is forced to sideline the child as the two argue in a bunker. Suffice to say, the drugging-of-the-child takes place when James isn’t looking after the poor thing. His responsibility suddenly kicks in and he grabs the knocked-out girl and heads to his mothers.
A simple problem dominates These Final Hours. Clearly, James makes decisions we wouldn’t. He is deeply unrelatable, unreliable and unlikable. The harsh light and deserted suburbia is captured well, recalling 28 Days Later… and The Walking Dead. The link to zombies seems inevitable but the only threat is a hot, steaming tsunami of lava that heads for the land. Danny Boyle is no doubt a frame of reference, as the extreme heat and dominant yellow seem to be straight from Sunshine (perhaps These Final Hours is a what-if scenario toying with what would happen if the payload wasn’t delivered).
Director Zak Hilditch has the right starting point but asks the wrong questions. You’d have to be an enormous pessimist to think that this would be the apocalypse. Even if you were intrigued to see the ugly side of life, these characters aren’t ugly or despicable enough to spend our time with. In the first twenty minutes we see a crazed murderer, manically wielding a huge knife. I wonder, what’s his story? Instead we’re dragged away alongside the confused thief with a heart of gold. It’s a shame, as These Final Hours could’ve been a great adventure.