Anarchy in the W.A. – ‘These Final Hours’ Review

These Final Hours

By Simon Miraudo
July 29, 2014

There’s never been an end-of-days movie quite like These Final Hours before, an anything-goes orgy of grief, savagery, and sex, with just enough humanity to remind us why maybe farewelling mankind would be a shame after all. Zak Hilditch‘s major feature debut makes Perth the final destination for an apocalyptic event that has already laid waste to the rest of the planet (which makes sense, given the popular definition for W.A. is actually “wait awhile”). With just twelve hours until the west coast erupts in a fiery, meteoric “come to Jesus” blaze, the locals spend their last moments entirely shedding the facade of morality, running amok on machete rampages, fornicating in the streets, and, at the mohawked, methed-out Freddy’s (Daniel Henshall) mansion, enjoying a pansexual, skin-on-skin bacchanalia the likes of which would make Jordan Belfort blush. Good thing the world’s already ending. Otherwise the lot of them would have been rendered pillars of salt.

The flick begins with a familiar lover’s tiff: James (Nathan Phillips) wants to go the party, while his girlfriend Zoe (Jessica De Gouw) would rather stay at home. He can’t bear to “feel” the end of the world, hoping to drown the pain out with whisky, cocaine, and whatever’s available, really. He abandons her at the beach house where she’d like to see out existence, but his trip to Freddy’s is waylaid by some of the nutters wilding in the streets, including a duo of dastardly gents who’ve kidnapped a young girl, Rose (Angourie Rice), for nefarious purposes. Conducting the first unselfish act of, perhaps, his entire life, James rescues Rose, who’s desperate to reunite with her father. James toys with taking her to him, though not before stopping off at that party, where Rose is harassed by a distraught young mother (Sarah Snook) and plied with drugs. Hey, if you’ve got to go…

These Final Hours

There’s an appreciated forward momentum to These Final Hours, and not simply because there is a literal ticking clock and a clear conclusion we’re driving towards. (Bonnie Elliot’s camera captures the smothering, smouldering sensation of the unbearable summer heat, amplified by the gradually-increasing incineration of the entire G-ddamn globe). Hilditch directs with great propulsion, and his script swiftly takes us from vignette to vignette, with James and Rose encountering a variety of strangers all enduring their own private drama during These Final Hours. James’ personal journey, from ‘jerk’ to ‘not that bad really’, is satisfyingly travelled too. The dialogue is occasionally overwrought – and Phillips is not always up to the task in the more dramatic moments – however, I don’t necessarily know how you tell this tale in which every person on the planet faces death and not devolve into screeching, histrionic madness. If anything, this hysterical panic and frequent ugly-crying is almost freeing to behold; “Oh good,” we think, “everyone is as emotionally ill-equipped as I’d be.”

Where Phillips falters, Rice acts as anchor; a remarkably impressive performance from the 13-year-old actress. Snook and Henshall are similarly memorable in their small, startling turns. What makes the picture most compelling, however, is the fine filmmaking on display, which convincingly turns Western Australia into a hellscape with suspicious ease. (As a Perth resident, it was alarming to see empty streets turned into sites of chaos, as well as how little effort was required to do so.) The energetically assembled party sequence, as a parody of sandgroping bro culture – seen at any music festival, or outback B&S Ball, or on any Australia Day – pierces with devastating precision, and is punctuated by bursts of uncomfortable humour and outrageously graphic violence. On the other end of the spectrum, beyond Freddy’s compound and around each new corner, are countless heartbreaking moments for James and Rose to happen upon, and for us to wince at as they unfold. This won’t be a pleasant experience for many, and you may not want to watch These Final Hours more than once. And yet, it does the job so well, you shouldn’t need to.

4/5

Check out Simon Miraudo’s archive of reviews.

These Final Hours arrives in Australian cinemas July 31, 2014.

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