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These Final Hours | Review

The Final Countdown: Hilditch Fails to Impress with Aussie Apocalypse

Zak Hilditch These Final Hours PosterAustralian director Zak Hilditch tackles the swiftly encroaching apocalypse in his latest effort, These Final Hours. As the title indicates, the last lamentable days of a disparate populous awaiting extinction are conveyed as a drug-fueled bacchanalian on Earth’s last frontier, the seventh continent. Uninventive and playing like the older brother version of Stuart Beattie’s Aussie YA adaptation of Tomorrow When the War Began (2010), Hilditch is simply unable to make this endeavor seem remarkable.

With only twelve hours to go before a meteor will bring about the end of the world, Australia remains the last piece of land to be affected. As the final countdown begins, people are either ending their lives or engaging in hedonistic end-of-times behavior. James (Nathan Phillips) is of the latter group. Meeting up with his mistress (Jessica De Guow) for what may be their last tryst, James is in a hurry to get to his friend’s drug fueled party, where his actual girlfriend is waiting for him. However, the mistress reveals she is pregnant, an emotional truth James doesn’t seem to want to deal with. Leaving her, he makes his way to the party but stops when he sees a young preadolescent being forcefully taken into a home where it looks like she’s about to be raped. He saves little Rose (Angourie Rice) from her plight and they try to find her father, but to no avail. Rose tags along with him to the party, but it isn’t a scene safe for the child. After increasing tensions lead to a violent altercation, James takes Rose away from the party.

The apocalypse, both before and after, has literally been done to death and to varying degree. Hilditch’s endlessly derivative effort can’t quite find anything new to say and he’s bound to be unfavorably compared with a wide range of films that spans the gamut, from the works of his native peers like Mad Max and The Rover, to more international realms, such as 2008’s Before the Fall (a film that manages to use the encroaching end as an innovative backdrop). But what These Final Hours really seems to rip off is Stanley Kramer’s 1959 film On the Beach….which concerns the inhabitants of Australia, finally coming to terms with the fact that the nuclear fallout that’s eradicated the rest of the world’s population will soon wipe them out as well. Sound familiar? Hilditch’s only addition is the amateurish fantasy of every adolescent when asked the hypothetical question about what they’d do if the world were about to end, succinctly stated by its lead character, “I just wanna get fucked up.” In essence, they really will be dancing until the world ends.

Nathan Phillips, of Wolf Creek and Snakes on a Plane fame gets the honors of navigating us through the bleak mise-en-scene, though his predicament doesn’t happen to be all that compelling, which sees him basically engage with a quartet of females (two girlfriends, his mother, and the small child he saves). A couple notable Aussie actors are sandwiched into the film’s party/orgy scene (including Sarah Snook as an insane mother and Daniel Henshall of Snowtown and The Babadook), while Jessica De Guow fails to make much of an impression, saddled with a silly pregnancy meant to imbue the film’s final blow-out with a bit of sentimental heft.

Sadly, nothing about These Final Hours manages to make any kind of lasting impression, and we’re left with a feeling of disconnected ambivalence, a state that would have been more beneficial for the characters facing a terrifying, inevitable end.

★/☆☆☆☆☆

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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