These Final Hours is compelling and ambitious Australian storytelling at its very best and an important reminder of just how strong our brand of cinema can be when given the appropriate amount of support and funding.
Set during the final 12 hours of human existence, These Final Hours paints a rather bleak and bloodthirsty initial picture of how mankind is capable of destroying itself long before armageddon does.
“It’s going to hurt and I don’t want to feel it”.
James’ (Nathan Phillips – superb) mantra echoes most of his decisions during the film’s opening frames. Rather than seeking solace in the arms of his family and loved ones, he decides to bury the pain and horror of the world’s incoming annihilation in an excessive cocktail of sex, cocaine, alcohol and partying.
As he speeds dangerously to his mate’s end-of-days party, James is forced to check his selfishness at the door, in order to save a young girl, Rose (Angourie Rice) from being raped and killed.
Separated from her father, Rose pleads with James to help her reunite with her family so that she can be by her dad’s side when the end finally comes.
With countless entries into the ‘apocalyptic drama’ category, writer/director Zak Hilditch does an outstanding job at doing away with many of the typical tropes and conventions of the genre, all while masking his film in the uniqueness of the land it was set.
The beautiful city of Perth is very rarely seen in a feature film, but there’s something eerie and disconcerting about seeing our familiar settings completely stripped of humanity and social order. Unbridled and extreme hedonism doesn’t sit well on our shores.
Steering clear of Hollywoodism, Hilditch ignores pointless exposition or explanations as to how or why the earth is about to be destroyed. He also avoids any false sentimentalism or preachiness. No single agenda, religious ideology or viewpoint is presented as truth, rather he gives multiple perspectives the chance to be seen, heard and reflected upon. These conscious decisions ground his work with a plausibility that seem authentic to our Australian way.
Also of note is the director’s decision to surround James with a collection of strong and compelling female characters. Sisters, mothers, daughters, lovers and girlfriends each provide James a chance for forgiveness and closure.
Marked for death from the very beginning, there is a very real sense of pace and timeliness to the picture. James’ redemptive journey with Rose is filled with small character-defining moments that feel genuine and necessary. Their quick-lived relationship is one of contrasts and connection. It was hard saying goodbye to these characters.
These Final Hours is an intense and heartbreaking journey throughout its punchy running time. A huge achievement in Australian filmmaking, the film is a sucker-punch to the audience’s emotional resiliency. A beautiful, yet painful reminder that death will eventually greet us all and we must make peace with the people in our lives.
A sentiment that we forget all too easily.
THE VERDICT: 4/5
Starring: Nathan Phillips, Angourie Rice.
Directed by: Zak Hilditch
Written by: Zak Hilditch
Running time: 87 minutes