These Final Hours (Zak Hilditch, 2014)
I’ve always thought the phrase “Live everyday as if it’s your last” is really pretty stupid advice, because then you’d never show up to work. But what would you do if the world was actually about to be burnt to a crisp? Surround yourselves with loved ones? End your life prematurely? Go to a huge piss-up? In These Final Hours, James (Nathan Phillips) opts for the latter, leaving the woman he loves (Jessica De Gouw) behind to attend a party across town. His aim is to get so off his face that he doesn’t have to consciously experience the end. He’s clearly a bit of a tool, but his plan is thrown into disarray when he stumbles upon a kidnapped child named Rose (Angourie Rice). Regaining some human decency, he endeavours to get her back to her father in time.
We learn through a radio announcer that various countries have already disappeared following a meteor hitting the Earth, with Australia seemingly one of the last places to go. Perth seems like an appropriate place for the end of the world given its quiet, laidback atmosphere, and hearing a drunk guy in the distance singing “We’re from Tiger Land…” hits home. It’s funny for a second until you remember the gravity of the situation i.e. WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE! And being an Australian film, it does feel a lot more personal. We’ve seen plenty of American apocalyptic films where the focus is on stopping the devastation, with plenty of government/navy/heroic intervention thrown in for good measure. Here, we’re past the salvation crap. This is the end, and the focus is on an ordinary Aussie twenty-something guy trying to get to a destination before his time is up. The sunny suburban backyards of Perth still look a welcome sight, even though they are now mostly empty, never to be inhabited again.
Despite the beauty of the locations, there is plenty of ugliness on display here, most notably in the human response to inevitable death. Young adults leave their families to get high at a party where they have emotionless sex with whoever is in close proximity. Parents kill their children before killing themselves. One man wields a machete and there’s no law enforcement to stop him. And it is more than clear why two gross men kidnap young Rose. It’s easy to imagine ourselves doing something nobler, but who knows what we’re capable of when fear is the overwhelming motivating factor. If there’s ever a time to try some hard drugs, this might be it!
These Final Hours is not exactly a feel good film – it doesn’t get much more depressing than the end of the world – but it certainly provides some perspective. Though the odds are slim, this COULD happen in our lifetimes. By comparison, our daily battles seem pretty ridiculous. Though it’s easy to distance ourselves from a narrative that seems almost science-fictional, the local vibe works to creep us out just enough. The score is intense, and solid performances by Phillips, Rice, and De Gouw pack a punch. In a way, this film did make me feel good. GOOD TO BE ALIVE! Count your blessings.