These Final Hours

The apocalypse film you never expected to come out of Perth.
Tom Clift
Published on August 01, 2014


At last year's Melbourne International Film Festival, Perth-set apocalypse film These Final Hours beat out high-profile competition, including The Turning and Mystery Road, to snag The Age Critics Award for Best Australian Feature. Now, almost 12 months later, the film has finally arrived in theatres. Trust us when we tell you that this movie, blending heart-pounding thrills with character-driven drama, is well worth the wait.

By the time the story gets going, the end has already begun, courtesy of a devastating meteor strike somewhere in the North Atlantic. Europe is reduced to a cinder in an instant, while a rolling wall of fire promises to annihilate everywhere else. We're never deluded into thinking that survival is even remotely an option. The only question that remains is what to do with the time that's left.

Nathan Phillips, most easily recognisable as one of Mick Taylor's ill-fated victims in the original Wolf Creek, plays James, a self-absorbed screw-up with no intention of going out sober. But life, even in its last few moments, has a way of messing with your plans. So it is that on the way to an end-of-the world blow-out, James becomes the reluctant protector of a 12-year-old girl named Rose (newcomer Angourie Rice). After James rescues her from a pair of would-be rapist, she asks him to help her find her family. Perhaps sensing a chance to atone for his squandered life, our dubious hero agrees.

In his first feature outing, writer-director Zak Hilditch seems remarkably assured. His native Perth provides a unique and unsettling backdrop for the film, the haunting images of forsaken Australian suburbia striking eerily close to home. Visuals like that contribute to a suffocating sense of bleakness that hangs over the film like a scorching summer heat.

But These Final Hours is not entirely devoid of hope. Fundamentally, in fact, it's a film about redemption — about a single act of kindness in the face of common fear. Phillips' performance is one of resounding emotional honesty, while Rice displays a maturity that far exceeds her years. An unlikely pairing, both James and Rose bring out the strength and humanity in the other. In the face of imminent extinction, it's a surprisingly comforting thought.


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