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MOVIE REVIEW

The Darkest Hour

Dim bulbs aplenty in ‘Darkest Hour’

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By Joel Brown
Globe Correspondent / December 27, 2011
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A mysterious force has descended on Moscow, terrifying the populace and sucking up all the power. No, not Vladimir Putin.

In “The Darkest Hour,’’ a bunch of invisible flying alien electrical jellyfish thingies rain down from the sky to drink all the juice out of the world’s power grid, or possibly steal the earth’s electrical-conductor minerals, or . . . something.

Our knowledge of the situation is limited because we’re seeing it through the eyes of four young Americans who meet up at a bar in Moscow for vodka shots just in time for the extraterrestrial invasion.

Sean and Ben, played by Emile Hirsch and Max Minghella, have just been ripped off in an Internet business deal when they meet up with Natalie and Ann, played by Olivia Thirlby and Rachael Taylor. When all hell breaks loose, they hide out in a storage room, emerging days later into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Those little alien lightning balls have been busy.

Searching for a safe haven, the Americans encounter a goofy Russian electrical genius who resembles the guy in the Discover Card commercials (“My name is Peggy, what is problem, please?’’) and some bad fighting men who want to take down the aliens with “good old Russian bullets.’’ Screenwriter Jon Spaihts and director Chris Gorak seem to have studied “28 Days,’’ “Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior’’ and “Transformers.’’

Hirsch, Minghella, Thirlby, and Taylor resemble dollar-store knockoffs of Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anne Hathaway, and Nicole Kidman. Veronika Ozerova initially makes an impression as a tough, beautiful Russian teenager named Vika, but after 20 minutes with the Americans, she turns as blank as they are. All together now, eyes wide, look scared! But determined!

The special effects aren’t exactly awe-inducing, either. Even though the movie is set in Moscow, some will be disturbed by the way it evokes 9/11 with abandoned cars, drifting ash, and collapsing buildings. There are even towers of fire and smoke, although this time they’re shooting upward, as the aliens take our electricity or minerals or whatever.

Once upon a time, you’d go to see a grade-C genre movie like this willing to trade consistency and artfulness for a few stray thrills or oddball charm. But “Darkest Hour’’ doesn’t have even as much character as those Discover commercials. “Peggy’’ fighting aliens - that would be worth seeing. “The Darkest Hour,’’ not so much.

Joel Brown can be reached at jbnbpt@gmail.com.

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THE DARKEST HOUR Directed by: Chris Gorak

Written by: Jon Spaihts

Starring: Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Max Minghella, Rachael Taylor

At: Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs.

Running time: 89 minutes

Rated: PG-13 (language, violence)

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