Where David Michôd’s recent The Rover provided a poised, sparse vision of post-apocalyptic Australia (complete with “a Bressonian car chase,” per the critic and filmmaker Dan Sallitt), Zak Hilditch’s These Final Hours — shot in and around Perth, and set during the twelve hours leading up to a sure-thing, planet-annihilating cataclysm — offers a more amped-up experience.
James (Nathan Phillips), the ripped, rugged protagonist, snorts lines of coke and chugs from a liquor bottle as he speeds his way to the “party to end all parties”; a weapon-wielding drifter butchers a helpless man before James’s eyes, leading to a frantic foot chase; and, at that aforementioned party/orgy/rager, Rose (Angourie Rice), the young girl James saves and begins looking after, is given a pill by a whacked-out woman (Sarah Snook).
Hilditch’s approach to this end-of-days scenario can be heavy-handed: In one shot, he lingers over a tattered roadside billboard entitled “The Future of Living.” Likewise, he telegraphs his means of generating suspense: On two separate occasions, the onset of upbeat music (a Christmas jingle during the first, Werner Tautz’s jazzy “Sugar Daddy’O” during the second) signals the proximity of dead bodies. But Hilditch gets good mileage out of his cast.
Phillips, familiar from the notorious Wolf Creek, digs beyond the broad, everyman nature of his character to convey a distinctive physical arc: James starts out manic — darting around rooms, hunting for booze — but gradually adopts more controlled body language. And Hilditch’s less forced world-building gestures are effective: He shoots the abandoned Perth Ice Arena from an eerie distance, like one of the decrepit movie houses from the opening of Paul Schrader’s The Canyons.