When we are introduced to him, he is portrayed as being selfish and arrogant after abandoning his pregnant lover, Zoe, so that he doesn’t feel anything when the end comes, but it’s only after he encounters a young girl that’s separated from her father that he is finally redeemed and appreciate those closest to him. The film doesn’t spend too much time delving into backstory seeing as it’s all deliberately left out, solely because writer/director Zak Hilditch wanted use ambiguity as a means of heightening the mystery of the apocalyptic firestorm and to mainly focus on the core human elements at play. Plus, Hilditch definitely has the balls to make the apocalypse itself inevitable to stop instead of doing the contrived Hollywood plot device of stopping it just in time, which would only render all dramatic integrity pointless. This is used as a way of saying that in the end, we are not in control, that nature is our ultimate destroyer, that the scariest thing to face is the feeling powerlessness to stop it and how it can turn good people cruel.
The cinematography by Bonnie Elliott is stunning; perfectly capturing the sweltering heat getting hotter and you almost feel the humid claustrophobia getting worse by the minute. The performances across the board are all excellent with Nathan Phillips adding real layers and intrigue to the central role of James and he makes us bond more and more with him as the film goes on. Despite her role basically being a glorified cameo, Jessica de Gouw is emotionally raw in the few scenes she has, and the film could’ve really benefited by having flashback sequences of her time with James to add more emotional weight to proceedings. However, the real standout has to be rising star Angourie Rice, who delivers a real star-making performance as the young child who becomes James’ emotional anchor throughout the film. She handles the powerfully dramatic moments efficiently well with the vulnerability coming across as genuinely real and heartfelt, without it becoming contrived or forced. After delivering strong performances in this and the recently released The Nice Guys, you can tell that big things are expected to happen in her future, and there’s no doubt that she’ll appear in a Marvel movie at some point in the near future.
These Final Hours is an emotionally-wrought and powerful, if somewhat flawed film with rough edges. The pacing and storytelling gets bogged down during the party sequence and having Jessica de Gouw in a glorified cameo role is deeply unfortunate considering just how amazing she was in the few minutes she had, however, this is still a solid film with powerful themes and messages, stunning visuals, and a breakout performance from Angourie Rice. Just a shame then that there has to be an American remake soon…
THESE FINAL HOURS / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: ZAK HILDITCH / STARRING: JESSICA DE GOUW, NATHAN PHILLIPS, DAVID FIELD, LAUREN CLEARY / RELEASE DATE: AUGUST 8TH