Countdown to Doomsday: A Review of These Final Hours

The threats, responses, and almost the whole concept of the apocalypse have been rehearsed repeatedly on screens that just about every doomsday-related imaginary visualization seems like a familiar case now. The 2013 Australian film “These Final Hours” is just another take on the same premise. Written and directed by Zak Hilditch, it is a concise thriller covering the life of James before human civilization is reduced to smithereens following an asteroid impact just minutes earlier in the North Atlantic. One of the main points the film tries to make is that an impending apocalypse is a global event that affects all the minute details of even the most ignorant and irresponsible person around.

An asteroid impact promises an annihilation of a biblical scale, one area at a time, as the effect spreads all across the globe. Beginning in the North Atlantic, the devastation gradually moves toward all directions before finally hitting Australia. Waiting for an inevitable death must be a horrific experience, but it turns out that some people see it as the best chance to make all the wrong life decisions; there definitely won’t be life on Earth after tomorrow, anyway.

Events in “These Final Hours” are set in the city of Perth in Western Australia. While most regions on Earth have been eradicated, people in Perth still have time to do nothing (or everything) before the planet is laid to waste. The film does away with detailed exposition of the apocalypse itself, and the sun-scorched suburb of Perth already gives the atmosphere of a cataclysmic event to come.

At the center of the hysteria is a broad-shouldered and self-centered local with a responsibility issue named James. Not only is he just an ordinary man living in Perth, but he also has quite a self-destructive lifestyle. He neglects his mother, cheats on his girlfriend, and finds cold comfort in hard liquor. In the hours leading to the end of the world, the typical desperate response would be pretty quiet and perhaps almost like a spiritually introspective experience, but not for James.

The revelation about the imminent calamity comes just about the same time as the inconvenient news of his lover’s pregnancy. Both are fully aware of the fact that they will no longer be around in the world tomorrow and the child will never see the light of day. Zoe wants James to stay at her beach house and absorb the bleak view together as a couple. James wants no such desperation; all that he thinks about is an end-of-day party at a friend’s house, so he leaves Zoe alone and takes the trip.

With only about 12 hours left before all things turn to dust, James doesn’t have much time. He needs to get to where he is going fast and take part in the apocalyptic self-indulgence. Hellbent on playing his last role in the last hedonistic taste of sex, drugs, and booze, James does everything he can to fend off hordes of homicidal, suicidal, enraged anarchists on the way.

Among the swath, of interruptions is a brutal sight of a young girl being kidnapped by some men. James knows almost immediately the men want nothing but to rape and kill the girl. His brain might be full of stupid things, but this time the conscience emerges from within and persuades him to do good. With a hammer in his hand, he handles the situation well and rescues the young girl from a terrible fate. Still not sure what to do, James takes the girl – named Rose – to a drive to the party.

Arriving at Freddy’s place where the party has been hard and wild, Rose comes across many things a little girl like her is never supposed to see. Alcohol and drugs are all around, with people having orgy and a game of Russian roulette. James also meets his (actual) girlfriend and Freddy’s sister, Vicki, who shows him a bunker in which there is just not enough sustenance to keep anyone alive for long. Again, the conscience wins the battle between good and evil, prompting James to abandon all the bacchanalian affairs and head back to his mission: help Rose find her family.

Predictably, James suddenly becomes a big brother figure to Rose on their last day on Earth. The journey to find her family is difficult, which involves him reconciling with his mother and Rose having to accept her father’s death in what appears to be a case of mass suicide.

We think These Final Hours again explores a premise that feels already too familiar to have any shocking value. Little is given to explore James’s personality and backstory beyond the constraint of the premise. The writer and director might want to portray that such details as employment, education, businesses, residence, and even personal history are not important on the last day of human civilization. It is the gradual change of heart that defines a man in the end. The film works well, no thanks to the story and apocalyptic idea; it is Nathan Phillips (James) who throughout the duration skillfully delivers a dramatic anchor.

Have you watched These Final Hours? Can you name one or two films with a similar premise? We’d love to hear from you.

Other things you might want to know:

Main Cast:

  • Nathan Phillips as James
  • Angourie Rice as Rose
  • Jessica De Gouw as Zoe
  • Kathryn Beck as Vicki
  • Daniel Henshall as Freddy

Other films by Zak Hilditch:

  • Waiting for Naval Base Lilly (2003)
  • The Actress (2005)
  • Plum Role (2007)
  • The Toll (2010)
  • These Final Hours (2013)
  • 1922 (2017)
  • Rattlesnake (2019)

Nathan Phillips’ filmography:

2002Australian RulesGary “Blacky” Black
Warriors of Virtue: The Return to TaoRyan Jeffers
2003Take AwayDave
2004Under the RadarBrandon
One Perfect DayTrig
2005Wolf CreekBen Mitchell
You and Your Stupid MatePhilip
2006Snakes on a PlaneSean Jones
2008Surfer, DudeBaker Smith
Dying BreedJack
2009BaliboMalcolm Rennie
2012Chernobyl DiariesMichael
2013These Final HoursJames
2019Blood VesselSinclair
2021The Devil BelowCain

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