|UK Release Date||TBC|
|Reviewed||26th May 2015|
Early on in Zak Hilditch’s doomsday scenario, These Final Hours we know the Earth has had it and there is no way back. No last minute nuclear option, no under ground bunkers and certainly no post apocalyptic landscape where road warriors do battle for water and gasoline. Over a black screen sirens wail and desperate last phone calls twitch across our consciousness. This is for real. No second chances. Twin meteors impact in the North Atlantic obliterating Western Europe immediately before systematically destroying the rest of the world. Australia has the dubious honour of being the last bastion of life before the all-consuming fireball cleanses it in little more than 12 hours time.
In Perth James wants to live his final hours in a blizzard of drugs, booze and sex, a hedonistic swan song in the fine tradition of the fall of Rome or the last days of the Third Reich at a party hosted by his mate Freddy. His girlfriend Zoe begs him to stay at her apartment on Capricorn Beach and watch the tsunami firewall together in humane bliss. Even Zoe’s revelation that she is pregnant can’t persuade James to take his medicine lying down. He has to rinse every last second out of the party lifestyle that has been the substitute for his life, presumably to give those wasted years some meaning before the Four Horseman gallop all over his burning flesh.
James’ trek to oblivion takes him into some dark and unsettling places. Corpses hang from lamp posts, murder suicides are a common occurrence and perhaps most affecting are the desperate measures taken to try and survive the inevitable, a house is wrapped completely in tin foil in a pathetic attempt to reflect the blast, Duck and Cover style. The most depraved try to live out their base desires preying on the weak and vulnerable, a machete attack settles an old score and James witnesses two men bundle a young girl, Rose out of a van and into their house. James faces his Butch in Pulp Fiction moment. He wants to take the van and leave the girl to her fate but his humanity crawls over the drugs and booze and makes him reach for a hammer.
Rose’s rescue is bloody and visceral, an act of heroism which as a concept will be just as extinct as the rape James saved her from. Rose is a bittersweet burden; one James wants to offload to clear his conscience and party guilt free, first to his sister and then to a cop and his family. On the other hand Rose represents a glimpse into his non-existent future, the chance to be a father to the child that will never be born, never breathe, never cry or never smile. In These Final Hours James promises to reunite Rose with her family, a gift of altruism from a selfish creature who willingly gave up his for a life of chemical romance. As the intermittent radio show host says whilst mournfully counting away the hours, “Science always had it over religion.”
This epiphany is reached when James and Rose finally arrive at Freddy’s party, a shimmering, writhing procession of flesh. We’re way up the river in Apocalypse Now territory and James has another girlfriend, Freddy’s sister Vicky. James sobers up quickly and realises that he doesn’t want to subject Rose to such wanton barbarity. Throughout the film James attempts to shield Rose from the horror by a dip in a swimming pool or reading a book in a library but he can’t prevent the inevitable. Who can? The sweat cascades off of James, so much so that we could be watching Captain Willard except that James escapes his heart of darkness. Freddy has the ultimate after party planned, a survival bunker kitted out for a year but James accepts the futility of his situation, accepts his death and wants to meet it honourably, with feeling and dignity, not anesthetised from the reality and finality of “the undiscovered country.”
These Final Hours has the taste of hell on earth as the sky swelters with impending doom. At times the sense of crushing nihilism is so overwhelming that are forced to feel our own mortality more than in any film in recent memory. Hilditch’s film is more akin to The Road rather than Mad Max and the stunning ending feels like we are witnessing a flaming hot rapture as James faces his own death. But that’s not the image that burns our retinas. The indelible image that will haunt you long after the credits roll is of Rose and James trying to keep one another in view for as long as they can. Who knows how many hours we have left with the ones we love? How many have we wasted? These Final Hours remind us to make every Nano-second count.