Ring a soaked towel for a spell and it’ll feel as good as new, fresh and ready to cusp your bare ask cheeks again. The new Auspocalyptic flick “These Final Hours” works much the same way – it’ll drain you until every ounce of emotionally-stirred liquid has thawed from within, and by golly, you’ll feel all the more better for it afterwards.
Writer/director Zak Hilditch wants us to walk on hot cinematic coals here, knowing the hurt and pain that the film stirs up will ultimately result in a satisfied but more so, stronger you. And he does it by way of type of film you don’t normally see from local filmmakers.
Ostensibly having heard the complaints of the cinemagoer that ‘Australian movies are all the bloody same – deceptive crook takes a 90-minute, VB-infused piss on the carcass of a nasty played by a former Playschool host’, Hilditch’s script dry humps the Australian film commission with a move from Hollywood – the end-of-days blockbuster, only one wrapped in a distinctly Australian and very emotive wool.
Not to say it resembles anything Hollywood’s made. “These Final Hours” is as much alike “2012” or “Armageddon” as “Cabaret” is to “Not Another Teen Movie”. Sure, there’s some dazzling-looking effects work at play, particularly as the ‘end’ approaches, but by-and-large, this is a yarn more focused on how we, humans, are wired as opposed to a canister full of explosives. This is the human element Roland Emmerich skips on.
The message here is, it’s never too late to change, make amends, or – as the text on the poster reminds us – find someone worth living for.
Perth. Last day of mankind. Australia – we discover, thanks to an often-heard radio broadcaster – is one of the final countries to go boom. Most other spots on the map have been charcoaled. Most downunder go cracked– they’re either going gun-crazy, offing themselves, or numbing themselves with drugs.
Knowing this is it, and that in twelve hours they’ll all be profiteroles, James (Nathan Phillips) decides he wants to go out with a bang (well, in fact a ‘bang’ of a different sort opens the movie – hello!). The messed-up and understandably frenzied Aussie kisses secret flame Zoe (Jessica ) goodbye, and begins his drive towards the parties of parties, where his girlfriend Vicky (Kathryn Beck) will be waiting for him.
But along the way, James’s plans are derailed when he’s forced to step in and rescue a young girl (Angourie Rice) from two thugs who’ve snatched her and plan to do dastardly things to her. With the girl’s father nowhere to be found, James slowly begins to accept that the youngster is now under his charge, and as the day progresses and the red clouds looms, begins an unlikely, heartfelt bond with the girl.
Hilditch’s screenplay might be the asteroid that gives this tale its fire, but without the immersive, powerful performances of his cast it mightn’t have set thumpers on fire like it does. Nathan Phillips, in a much-welcome return to stout drama, gives the truest performance of his career as James, a man who credibly changes over the course of half-a-day. It’s a turn the local film award bodies are no doubt already keeping in mind come nomination time. And equally as good, young Angourie Rice, who gives one of the most memorable and effecting performances by a young actor in recent times. Some of her scenes, particularly later on in the film, will screw with your ducts and then some. Bring a rag. Or two.
And though their roles aren’t as showy, local thesps Jessica De Gouw, Daniel Henshall, Lynette Curran, and Sarah Snook are also memorable and flat-out terrific in their disparate recitals here.
One might look on Hilditch‘s libretto as therapy – you’re going to see things you don’t ever have to hear, you’re also going to confront themes that are hard to face, but at the end of the day, doctor H just did you a mighty big fucking favour – he entertained you, he enlightened you, and he got you to acknowledge those that have gotten about invisible in your life for far too long. Don’t relapse now.
Slip the Medicare card back in the wallet or purse, and buy a cinema ticket for “These Final Hours” instead. And make sure you’re on time because you don’t wanna miss a thing…