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Movie Review

Sean and Ben are cocky, enterprising twentysomethings who've just landed in Moscow to pitch their pioneering social networking site and app to potential Russian investors. They've got mounds of money on their minds … until they arrive at a key meeting to find that their unscrupulous Swedish partner, a man named Skyler, has stolen their concept.

Bereft of their would-be billions, the two young Americans retreat to a posh Moscow nightclub to drown their sorrows. There they meet an American woman, Natalie, and her vaguely British-sounding friend, Anne. Things are going quite swimmingly for the foursome (even though a gloating Skyler has shown up at the club as well) when the power goes out.

Throngs of Russians wander into the streets to see floating yellow orbs of light descend like spacey jellyfish and, seemingly, disappear into the ground. Shortly thereafter, an amorphous, nearly invisible orb of … something … surfaces. And it promptly unleashes a lightning-like jolt that vaporizes the police officer unwisely pointing his baton at it.

Screams, mayhem and utter destruction ensue.

Sean and Ben, along with Natalie, Anne and Skyler take refuge in the club's basement. Days later they emerge to find that the entire visible population of Moscow—maybe the whole world—has been reduced to dust. And so begins their perilous quest to avoid the same fate.

They soon realize that as the invisible aliens approach, the electrical shield that cloaks them also powers on anything that runs on electricity—light bulbs, cellphones, etc. And so they fashion a glowing early warning system of sorts that gives them a fighting chance at survival until they figure out what to do next.

Soon they find other survivors: an electrical engineer who's created a microwave gun, a feisty orphaned girl named Vika, and a den of Mad Maxian tough guys armed to the teeth and ready to challenge the aliens' supremacy. Together, they decipher the rules of engagement and begin to fight back against Earth's latest xenomorphic assailants.

Positive Elements

As is generally the case in movies of this type, cavalier souls find their character tested in the face of tragedy and peril. Some respond well. Sean puts his life on the line for Natalie, insisting that he and a group of resistance fighters go to find her when she gets separated from them. Likewise, Ben risks his life to save Vika. All the while, Natalie encourages her timid and shaken friend Anne not to let terror engulf her. "I'm not giving up," Natalie tells her. "And if I'm not giving up, you're not giving up."

That kind of grit turns up elsewhere, too. "Today we have learned how to fight," says one leader of the Russian resistance. "Go and tell others what we know. This is the last day of extermination and the first day of war."

In the initial assault, Skyler slams a door on a woman he's just been flirting with—saving his life at the expense of hers. Later, when confronted by Sean and Ben, he admits that he's been remorsefully replaying that event. "We all want to be brave in our own minds," he says sorrowfully. "But the truth is you don't know who you are until something happens. And then you just react." Later, he seeks atonement if not full redemption by making a hard choice that saves the lives of his friends.

Spiritual Content

"No human society exists without booze and religion," Sean jokes. To which Ben replies, "That's why I drink religiously."

Sexual Content

Upon their arrival in Russia, Sean tells Ben that he wants to get drunk and laid, and conversation revolves around how easy it is for American men to pick up desperate Russian women.

They end up at that Moscow club, which is crammed with dancing, drinking women wearing very revealing outfits—Anne and Natalie among them. Anne wears a sheer white top with a black bra plainly visible beneath it. Natalie's neckline reveals cleavage as well. By accident, Sean later sees Natalie taking off her shirt. Not by accident, moviegoers see her too.

To fend off unwanted male attention at the club, one of the women says she's a lesbian and that the other has herpes.

Violent Content

Aliens attack by grabbing and/or zapping human targets with electrified tendrils that quickly incinerate them, leaving nothing but ash blowing in the breeze. We see 20-plus unfortunate humans and one dog meet their end that way, the majority in the first attack and several more as the film progresses.

A corpse is wrapped and taped up, mummy style. Someone gets a nasty gash on his leg. Sean nearly drowns after an explosion capsizes the boat he's in. From a distance, the camera shows the aliens destroying building after building.

To fend off E.T., people eventually develop a weapon that renders their otherworldly assailants visible and (explosively) vulnerable to conventional weapons such as guns, flamethrowers and rocket launchers.

One of the guys plays a violent video game on his smartphone.

Crude or Profane Language

An indistinct f-word. About 20 s-words. God's name is misused at least a dozen times, three times with "d‑‑n." Jesus' name is abused twice. We hear "h‑‑‑," "a‑‑," "a‑‑hole," "pr-ck," d‑‑k," "b‑‑ch," "p‑‑‑" and "douche bag."

Drug and Alcohol Content

Sean and Ben's social networking site and app, dubbed The Globe Trot, help travelers who are unfamiliar with a particular city or country to find the "hottest" nearby nightclubs. So it would make sense that they, as the creators, would drink. And they do … along with virtually everyone around them at the club. After surviving the first attack, Skyler grabs a bottle of booze and takes a long swig.

Other Negative Elements

Skyler casually dismisses Sean and Ben's claims that he's stolen their tech idea, saying that that's just how business is done in Russia.

After holing up for several days, somebody says he's tired of "p‑‑‑ing in tin cans."


Sometimes you walk into a film thinking you know exactly what's going to happen … and then are surprised by where the director takes you.

The Darkest Hour is not one of those films.

This CGI actioner dutifully hits all the alien invasion beats. The result is an earnest effort that's one or two notches up from what you'd expect to find in Saturday afternoon offerings on SyFy (like, say, Showdown at Area 51 or Terminal Invasion). The only real change-up here is the (briefly) suspense-inducing twist that the aliens are more or less invisible until they unleash their flesh-incinerating electrical blasts.

Once you figure that out (which happens while watching the trailer), the balance of the story marches in lockstep with the genre's time-tested template, a formula H.G. Wells established in 1898 with The War of the Worlds. 1) Aliens land in some way, shape or form on Earth. 2) Curious, often stupid, humans investigate. 3) Said humans get slaughtered. 4) Aliens push remaining people to the brink of extinction. 5) A few plucky, lucky, courageous and industrious folks figure out how to fight back and restore hope for homo sapiens survival.

From Steven Spielberg's rendition of War of the Worlds to Independence Day, from TV's V to Battle Los Angeles to Tim Burton's satire Mars Attacks!, it's a formula that, curiously, sci-fi fans never seem to tire of.

That's both remarkable and unremarkable at the same time. Which leaves us with this Plugged In perspective: The Darkest Hour includes a bit more than its fair share of profanity. And its violence quotient splits the difference between feeling a tad too graphic and feeling like a T-rated video game where lots of bodies get reduced to dust by way of instantaneous cremation at the hands, er, tendrils of this latest round of alien invaders.

Pro-social Content

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Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

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Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range



Emile Hirsch as Sean; Max Minghella as Ben; Olivia Thirlby as Natalie; Rachael Taylor as Anne; Joel Kinnaman as Skyler; Veronika Ozerova as Vika; Dato Bakhtadze as Sergei; Yuriy Kutsenko as Matvei


Chris Gorak ( )


Summit Entertainment



Record Label



In Theaters

December 25, 2011

On Video

April 10, 2012

Year Published



Adam R. Holz

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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