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Manuel de Layet [Celluloid 09.09.14] Australia apocalyptic thriller drama

It's refreshing for a change to get a good old apocalypse of biblical proportions. Not zombies/viruses/aliens/apes with human resistance building up and a glimmer of hope (read sequel) at the end, but Cretaceous–Paleogene-type of cataclysm and total annihilation of every living creature on the surface of Earth. These Final Hours is just what the title implies: a look at the last twelve hours of the remaining portion of mankind before it is engulfed in flames.

Ferrara's tried his hand at the apocalypse with 4:44 (review), and while being great in it's own scale it can easily be summed up as "hipster/mellow jazz/Valium" while this is more "white trash/grind core/amphetamines." The difference between hipster and white trash is a subtle one I concede, but the others aspects amount to a tremendous change in pace and themes. The apocalypse in itself is never obviously the subject.

"Is morality a social construct or an innate dimension of the human being?" is the question on display. It's actually painted in spunk, blood and feces over a canvas of stitched human skins so you won't be able to miss it. The first quarter hour takes a page from the opening of Takeshi Miike's Dead or Alive and basically punches the setting of the movie in a vivid succession of tableaux, introducing the world's reaction in the face of obliteration: Killing and fucking like hyenas on meth seems to be the preferred course of action. And who would blame them?

The subject of our case-study is no different. He's trying to escape it all with drugs, alcohol and the last party on earth. As with most coming-of-age stories, the mauvais garçon will have the opportunity to either keep being a selfish puer aeternus or actually do something right for a change; in this case saving a young girl from rape. What follows, while being pretty textbook in matters of narration, is a truly entertaining ride.

You obviously know, my learned readers, the ancient and accepted conception of the access to wisdom, the upward spiralling rise above the noises and turmoil of the mundane. It's pretty well put into images here.

Behind the Jungian archetype that will parade in front of your frontal lobes is something I have been hoping to see for a long, long time: a child done right. Most of the time, children in action movies have only one role: passives placeholders to show the feminine / caring side of the main protagonist but not here.

Unlike the cheesy flashbacks in the first The Raid (review) or that horrendous parade of mongoloid imps in the Godzilla remake (a quick gimmick to add pathos and get more demographics to care about the product you are selling), here the girl is a real focal point, a character in her own self instead of a narrative burden, and her absence of lineage with the hero removes the genetic affects for saving her life. It is the same kind of interaction you can find in The Last of Us even if the medium is different.

In a nutshell, what we have here with These Final Hours is intelligent entertainment that doesn't try to do too much and therefore achieves what it aims to. It's a grotesque fresco of Sturm und Drang into the boundaries of the human condition but most of all it's about growing up, leaving behind the boy and becoming a man.

Better late than never.

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