Title: These Final Hours
Director: Zak Hilditch
Starring: Nathan Phillips, Angourie Rice, Kathryn Beck and Jessica De Gouw
Relentlessly balking at the increasing pressure to accept full responsibility for your actions as you fully transition into adulthood is a common response among people who are unwilling to be held accountable for their mistakes. But once they face an intimidating, life-altering situation that puts their existence into question, they finally realize how their daunting choices prevented them from truly being happy. Writer-director Zak Hilditch’s new thriller, ‘These Final Hours,’ which opens in select theaters nationwide and on VOD platforms on Friday, enthralling showcases the daunting process of reexamining your life, and realizing what you could have accomplished if you made more fulfilling decisions, as you contemplate your own mortality.
‘These Final Hours’ follows the emotionally troubled James (Nathan Phillips), who’s unsure how to cope with his life’s mistakes, as the looming apocalypse is set to arrive in his hometown of Perth, Australia in 12 hours. After having one last fling with Zoe (Jessica De Gouw), the woman he’s been having an affair with, she reveals that she’s pregnant. Unable to contend with the news that he’ll never be able to raise their child together and make up for his past immature and irresponsible ways, he decides to leave Zoe to go to a party with where his girlfriend, Vicky (Kathryn Beck), awaits. While Zoe pleads for him to stay with her, James is determined to block out whatever emotions he’s experiencing as he waits for his impending death.
As James then drives across the lawless and chaotic city, he witnesses a pre-teen girl, Rose (Angourie Rice), as she’s being abducted by an older man. Despite his initial hesitance, he decides to save her and help her search for her father. She’s determined to go to her Aunt Janice’s house on the outskirts of the city, which is where she and her father were headed together before they were separated. James initially wants to drop her off at his sister’s house, but when he arrives there and sees the harrowing tragedy that befall on her and her children, James is forced to instead bring Rose with him to the party.
When the two finally arrive at the party, James is reunited with Vicky, who has become convinced they can survive by living in the underground bunker her brother, Freddy (Daniel Henshall), has built. Still distracted about what happened to his family, he’s unable to satisfy Vicky’s needs and desire to try to survive the apocalypse. He finally realizes that the only right thing to do is to find a way to not only unite Rose with her father and family, but also reunite with his true love, Zoe.
While thrillers often predictably mesmerize audiences’ attention by mainly driving the plot forward with visually stunning action sequences, Hilditch smartly decided to instead predominantly focus on the relatable emotional human element of struggling to accept your mistakes as you accept imminent death. While the writer-director did interestingly incorporate explosions, fire, shoot-outs and other lethal situations in the background of ‘These Final Hours,’ in an effort to prove the story’s minor characters haven’t been able to cope with the coming apocalypse, the filmmaker smartly chose to show James’ radical emotional transformation during his last day on Earth.
The drama’s immature anti-hero, who has long reveled in the carefree lifestyle he has embarked on with Vicky, in order to avoid accepting full responsibility for his actions, finally realizes his own self-worth when he comes to understand that the people who depend on him truly need him. Whether he’s helping Rose search for her father and family, so that they can comfort each other in their last hours alive, or is determined to make it back to Zoe’s beach house in time, so that they can spend their last moments together, James enthrallingly realizes that it’s never too late to find redemption, particularly for the mistakes he has made towards the people he cares about.
Hilditch smartly cast Phillips, who’s best known for playing one of the backpacking protagonists in the 2005 Australian horror thriller, ‘Wolf Creek,’ perfectly embodied the physical agility James needed in order to fight against the chaos that has overtaken Perth, as he searched for both his and Rose’s families. But the actor also rivetingly infused his troubled protagonist with an authentic vulnerability, as he struggled to overcome the daunting reality that he never truly lived up to his full potential until his last day on Earth. The filmmaker also rightfully cast Rice as the impressionable, but equally resilient, Rose, to showcase that she intriguingly challenged James’ morality, and was the person who finally made him contemplate and appreciate what was truly important in his life. While James was initially reluctant to serve as a father figure to the impressionable young girl, he dotingly began to embrace her determination to get what she wants, no matter what obstacles arise in the process. Rose also powerfully made him finally realize that he had to accept responsibility, particularly for the people he cared about, in order to mend the tension between them.
Besides capturing the commanding emotional transformation James underwent throughout ‘These Final Hours,’ as he finally admitted he had to take responsibility for the immature decisions he has made throughout his life, especially the ones that have hurt the people he cares about, Hilditch was also able to create a convincing sense of the impending apocalypse through the stunning locations he utilized. With the help of production designer Nigel Devenport, the director enticingly utilized exteriors in and around Perth that truly emphasized the thriller’s mesmerizing sense of a crumbling society.
To showcase the raw grittiness of the madness and hysteria the city’s citizens have descended into as they contend with their final hours, the two filmmakers chose to have James drive through empty suburban streets that eerily emphasize the cease of structured society. While he was desperate to make up for his mistakes and fully live out the last few hours of his life, the abandoned houses he also passed as he tried to find a way to reconnect Rose with her family, as well as find meaning in his own relationships, highlighted the abandonment and disconnect the rest of society has recently developed from their own loved ones.
‘These Final Hours,’ which enthrallingly utilizes visually alluring and contemplative locations to showcase an authentic rending of how self-destructive humanity can become as it’s on the verge of destruction, also alluring features truthful performances from, and connections between, the cast, particularly Phillips and Rice. The main actor charismatically offered a gripping and endearing portrayal of a formerly self-destructive man, who has finally found redemption from his past mistakes, and a genuine reason to value himself, as he contemplates the true meaning of his life as he bravely faces his impending mortality.
Written by: Karen Benardello