What would you do if you had just 12 hours left to live? How would you spend your final moments on Earth? These are the questions raised by the heart-wrenchingly beautiful new Australian film These Final Hours.
Set in Western Australia, the film tells the story of James (Nathan Phillips), a selfish young man who, upon hearing the news of mankind’s imminent extinction, abandons his girlfriend (Jessica De Gouw) and heads to “the party to end all parties”.
His plans are soon derailed when he rescues young Rose (Angourie Rice) from the hands of two vicious kidnappers and the two set out on a journey to reunite Rose with her father before life as they know it comes to an end. As they make their way through the chaotic streets, the initially reluctant James becomes Rose’s protector.
But with just 12 hours left, can he right his wrongs and find redemption?
Written and directed by Zak Hilditch, the film opens with a haunting medley of frightened voices, all desperately reaching out to loved ones, hoping to say one final goodbye. As their cries lessen, an eerily calm, anonymous individual (voiced by David Field) announces over the radio that “it has happened” – a catastrophic event has destroyed most of Europe and Asia, and Australians have just 12 hours left until its deadly path reaches our shores.
As the film continues, this announcer counts down the hours, urging listeners to find peace in their final moments. Unfortunately, not everyone is listening, and the film is full of scenes of depravity and violence which are, at times, confronting.
Phillips delivers a strong performance as the confused James, who suddenly finds himself responsible for the life of a young girl. While it is clear he hasn’t always made the best decisions, it is impossible to dislike him, particularly as his bond with Rose grows; by the end of the film, I was hoping he would find the peace he deserved.
Young actress Rice handles her challenging role with maturity. It is Rose’s childlike views of right and wrong and her unyielding faith that force James to re-evaluate his own life.
While the catastrophic event itself is hinted at in the film’s opening images, it is never fully explained, and Hilditch plays on our fear of the unknown to create a palpable tension which is maintained right through into the unnaturally silent closing credits.
These Final Hours takes the audience on an emotional ride through humanity’s last moments. It is easily one of the best Australian films so far this year.
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