Despite being finished back in 2013 (and even redone as a short last year), it’s only now that Zak Hilditch’s These Final Hours gets a UK cinema run, and it’s about time. Hilditch’s ‘end of the world’ effort is a movie that could well be a dark horse bet to be one of many people’s favourite films of the year by the time that 2016 comes to a close.
Plot-wise, as suggested by the title, the movie tells the tale of a world awaiting impending doom. As other countries have already begun to be wiped out after a meteor crashes into the North Atlantic, the action here takes place in Australia. We’re introduced to James (Nathan Phillips) and his lover, Zoe (Jessica De Gouw), as it soon becomes clear that the two are at odds over just how exactly to spend their final 12 hours; Zoe wants to spend their last hours together, whilst James instead has plans to meet up with some friends and his girlfriend (yep, there’s more than one lady in his life) in order to have the party to end all parties so that he doesn’t feel the soon-to-be-here death that awaits all of mankind.
Within the opening moments of the film, we’re firmly made aware that James is not a great guy. Whether it’s womanizing, drug taking, or simply his selfish, single-minded nature, the character is far from any sort of hero, but then again, this is a film that isn’t necessarily about heroes. In fact, it’s simply about ending your living days in the way that you see fit, with Hilditch exploring the differing reactions to the apocalypse. Some people choose to take their own life, some choose to commit crimes, others want to be with their loved ones, and some, like James and his friends, decide to just get fucked up in one final gathering of true excess. For James, though, his plans get a tad derailed when he comes across Rose (Angourie Rice), a young girl searching for her father. And this is where the narrative of These Final Hours changes, with James presented with the dilemma of another day of being his old self or a chance at some form of redemption and of doing one final act of selflessness, opening up the chance to finally do the right thing and explore what really matters in life.
Whilst These Final Hours may fly under the radar of some, it’s certainly worth hunting down, with Zak Hilditch marking himself out as a real talent in how he has crafted such a tense, atmospheric, engaging movie that feels dirty, visceral and gritty yet also meaningful, evocative, poignant and visually stunning as the beaten down world is often reflected in the sunlit landscape of what the end of the world really looks like. Key to all of this, though, are the performances of Nathan Phillips and Angourie Rice. Their supporting cast are also worthy of note and are all pitch-perfect, but it’s the film’s leads who both shine equally as bright. Phillips balances the turmoil of his situation expertly, with his turn here suggesting the 35-year-old actor could become a true breakout star if given the chance in a bigger scale picture. As for young Angourie Rice, rarely has a child put in such an impressive performance in recent memory.
Simply put, with These Final Hours, Zak Hilditch has created a low-budget effort that could, and should, very well be a highlight of the year.
THESE FINAL HOURS / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: ZAK HILDITCH / STARRING: NATHAN PHILLIPS, ANGOURIE RICE, JESSICA DE GOUW, DAVID FIELD / RELEASE DATE: MAY 6TH