James (Nathan Phillips) has passionate sex with pretty Zoe (Jessica De Gouw), then dresses and tells her he needs to get his girlfriend Vicky (Kathryn Beck) by the end of the day. The fact that Zoe has just announced she's pregnant with his child doesn't sway him: he's determined to get to Vicky.
Or, more specifically, to get her brother Freddy's (Daniel Henshall) place where a huge party is being staged. You see, an unexplained cataclysmic event has occurred and searing flames are covering the world continent by continent. Western Europe has been engulfed in the apocalyptic fires by the time the film starts, with Northern America and Western Africa due to suffer next.
As James leaves Zoe's house overlooking the ocean, explaining to her that he doesn't want to feel the end when it comes, he begins his drive across the barren roads of a panic-stricken Australia to Freddy's place. Swigging whiskey from the bottle as he drives, he has the radio on for company - the DJ (David Field) advising that there is approximately twelve hours left until Australia burns.
On the streets, people are committing suicide, killing each other, hiding in their homes ... the end is here and humanity doesn't know how to cope. For self-obsessed James and his similarly vacuous friends, they've planned to get off their tits in the hope that they won't even notice when the Grim Reaper comes a-calling.
En route, James is accosted by a nutter (Peter Docker) brandishing a machete. Effectively losing his car in the ensuing chase, this leads James to house where two oversized brutes are preparing to rape a young girl they've abducted James initially plans to steal their van, but is overcome with a sense of guilt and - two reluctant hammer murders later - has rescued Rose (Angourie Rice) from her would-be rapists.
She desperately wants to reunite with her Dad, who she's arranged to be with when the end comes. All James wants to do is get to Vicky, Freddy and their fellow revellers. But he agrees to take Rose along with him for the ride, hoping initially to dump her on someone else along the way.
Things don't turn out as planned. As time slips away, James and Rose continue their road journey while failing to find any trace of Rose's Dad and making some ugly discoveries along the way (not least of which involves a visit to James' sister's house).
Upon arriving at Freddy's place, the party is indeed an impressive shindig. Imagine an MTV poolside party with added nudity and blowjobs. Rave music blasting, people dancing and openly fucking, drugs and booze doing the rounds in abundance ... though all the while, Freddy has a secret that his guests aren't privy to: he's built a bunker to house him, James and Vicky in which may just save their lives.
But James has grown a conscience in the meantime. Will he stay with Vicky, or will he do right by Rose and help her find her Dad? And what of Zoe? Will she and James be reunited?
It sounds like I've given a great deal of the plot away, I know, but I haven't. Despite only being 83 minutes in length, the bulk of the film swells around the action that follows. And it's never as predictable as it may sound in print.
Warm hues and slick editing lend THESE FINAL HOURS an extremely accomplished look. The performances are generally superb. Phillips - you'll know him from WOLF CREEK - convinces in his dramatic arc from boorish fuckwit to reluctant hero. He's a likeable everyman despite his muscles and good looks, knowing when to drop the vanity and bare his soul for his art. Henshall continues to impress with his versatility - from terrifying psycho in SNOWTOWN to wet suitor in THE BABADOOK, to this, a drugged up idiot with little concept of what's going on around him. I took a while to warm to Rice but there a couple of key scenes later on, especially her final one, which won me over. Special mentions are deserved too to Lynnette Curran, who has a great albeit small role as James' mum, and Sarah Snook - the film's scariest character.
There's very little music in the film but when it comes it's either effective (discordant heavy metal during an early chase scene) or clumsy (melodramatic strings during emotionally charged moments). The latter isn't enough to undermine the film fortunately: writer-director Zak Hilditch clearly wants to tug at our heartstrings and, while this is no THREADS or THE ROAD, does a decent job of piling on the downbeat dramatics.
The film's concept has since been picked up by EuropaCorp TV Studios USA, who are set to make a television series based on the movie - specifically its exploration of what people would do if they suddenly realised they had just twelve hours left on Earth.
These tales of flawed characters finding redemption through their protection of a child are becoming a mini sub-genre of their own. But THESE FINAL HOURS is a valid addition to the slate, with its nice visuals, strong performance and flab-free storytelling strengths. It's not afraid to resort to nudity, gore and f-bombs aplenty along the way either.
THESE FINAL HOURS comes to UK DVD via The Works Film Group.
It's uncut and presented in its original 2.35:1 ratio. The picture is enhanced for 16x9 televisions, and is quite lovely. Strong colours, accurate flesh tones, noise-free clarity, fine details: there's nothing to grumble about.
English audio comes in choices of 2.0 and 5.1 mixes. Both are solid, evenly balanced propositions. Optional English subtitles are provided for the hard-of-hearing. These are easy to read at all times.
Extras are limited to a 24-strong stills gallery, offering a mix of grabs from the film and jovial on-shoot shots.
The disc is defaulted to open with a trailer for BONE TOMAHAWK.
THESE FINAL HOURS is a very good film, and a worthy addition to the modern cycle of apocalyptic thrillers. It's got a heart, and looks great while remembering to put human drama first.
This UK DVD from The Works Film Group offers a great presentation of the main feature. More bonus features wouldn't have gone amiss.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by The Works Film Group|
|see main review|