Melbourne 2013 Review: THESE FINAL HOURS, The Genre Film Australia Needs
These Final Hours is an intense genre exercise, respecting the best of its kind whilst imbuing the film with truly original and meaningful characters and implications. It has just been awarded The Age newspapers critics choice award over strong contenders like The Turning, Mystery Road and Patrick, and it's not hard to see why.
Phillips plays James, a strung-out, conflicted mess who aches to travel to his girlfriend's party and lose himself in drink, drugs and debauchery. Going by the festival guide's program notes, I did not expect to see burning cars and strewn out bodies in Perth suburbia as machete wielding maniacs stalked areas blocked by makeshift supermarket trolley fences.
Frankly, this came as a relief, as These Final Hours could have been a contemplative, low-budget slow burn on what it means to be a part of the final day on Earth. Thankfully, the film has it both ways, through organic character development and the trials and tribulations the last hours bring.
James grows through his encounters. Although they are entertaining and depressingly relevant, each one manages to interweave his motivations and personality. These trying tests prove to be substantial character builders for James, and in doing the right thing and redeeming himself, he comes across a girl separated from her father. Her name is Rose (an impressive turn from Angourie Rice) and she is James' moral compass. She, without forcing his hand, guides him through some horrific situations. They wind up at the centerpiece of the film, the end of the world party, and from there, James must decide how he is going to spend these final hours.
The producers of the film have worked some seriously impressive magic, and as a result the budget has been completely utilized to the best effect. Nothing feels cheap, every major element has been seriously considered, and the unique Australian take on this gloomy subject is a more than welcome one.
The film has a number of very impressive set pieces. The party is a thoroughly mind-blowing sequence of sin that relays how awful humanity truly is. It is such an eye-catching sequence that the entire film could have easily been spent in it, exploring the various interactions James could possibly have with these desperate characters. The film, however, has larger goals and a commendable scope that it pulls off without a hitch.
Recalling The Road, 28 Days Later, and other fantastic, well-worn fiction of its ilk, These Final Hours is ultimately its own unique story that thrives in a less-traveled location. Powerful performances from Phillips and Rice add to the many reasons why this truly great Australian production is more than deserving of the critics' prize. These Final Hours is easily my favorite Australian film in years.
These Final Hours screened at the 2013 Melbourne International Film Festival. For more of my MIFF coverage, see ScreenAnarchy's MIFF landing page.Stay tuned to ScreenAnarchy for more information on the film, including distribution, as we receive it.