These Final Hours (2013)

First published by TwitchFilm

If one thing is certain in life, it is that none of us will survive it. With the end already written into every breath we take, who we are is defined by what we do with our brief time here. Such ethical and eschatological concerns are presented in intensified form by Zak Hilditch’s These Final Hours, which follows a feckless, somewhat conflicted individual as he must decide how to spend his last day on Earth. As the full, fiery impact of a comet that has just crashed into the North Atlantic is due to hit Perth in 12 hours, James (Nathan Phillips) loves and leaves Zoe (Jessica De Gouw) for a hellishly hedonistic end-of-the-world party across town with his other girlfriend Vicky (Kathryn Beck) – but from the chaotic breakdown of civilisation that James encounters along the way, young Rose (Angourie Rice) appears in need of his help and shifts his moral priorities towards an eleventh-hour personal redemption that is heroic in spite, perhaps even because, of its utter meaninglessness.

Whether in On the Beach (1959) or One Night Stand (1984), cinema has often envisaged Australia as the last outpost against coming apocalyptic devastation. These Final Hours is a morality drama that depicts different shades of humanity in extremis, although, unlike its closest analogue, Don McKellar’s Last Night (1998), it prefers to focus on the experiences of an individual rather than an ensemble, and so risks making all its other characters seem like mere foils and bit players to James’ own solipsistic struggles with himself. Still, its glimpses of Aussie suburbia in desperate, existential collapse are hauntingly surreal – and in the end it lives up to Zoe’s words: “It’s not too late to change your mind. It’ll be a great view from here.”

Anton Bitel