Had you noticed the Swedes acting up recently? I ask because after years of noting that the ordinary general-release movie is apt to have either the representatives of an oil company or of the Russian “Mafia” as its villain, I’ve just seen Swede heavies in three movies.
In “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” the bad guy was going to be Swedish because the movie is set in Sweden and all of its characters are Swedes. In “Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol” the villain was a Swedish terrorist who killed himself in order to kill others—a sort of suicide or homicide bomber.
This, I figured, was just political correctness. “Everybody knows” that contemporary suicide bombers are middle easterners. Swedes are unlike Arabs and are prosperously trans-Atlantic. See: guys like us can be terrorists, too, the identification of this loopy villain seems to cry out from the screen. Not that it made any difference to the story. The terrorist could have been Japanese or Masai and the plot would have been just about the same.
But then, a couple of days later I see the Christmas season’s sci fi, horror movie, “The Darkest Hour,” and it begins with a young Swedish businessman robbing our two American heroes. They’ve come to Moscow to sell a program for “smart” phones that will help young travelers find “the hottest club” in any city they visit. The Swede was supposed to be their colleague, but he got to the meeting a little early and was pitching the product as his own.
Distraught, the two Americans do what they were going to do anyway—they head to “the hottest club” where they meet an American brunette and her wing girl, who seems to be an Aussie. The four are all sneering at the late-arriving Swede when hundreds of light balls drop out of the sky and begin disintegrating whatever humans they can see and sucking all the electricity out of local power sources.
Our four friends and one Swedish enemy barricade themselves in the nightclub’s kitchen for several days. When they emerge, the city is all but empty. As they sneak toward the U.S. embassy, they learn some things about the light creatures. Some of the things they learn make no sense. The creatures are generally invisible and are surrounded by individual power shields.
Eventually Emile Hirsh’s character and the others make friends with a Russian girl who leads them to an eccentric who lives in a Faraday cage of an apartment. Later they meet representatives of the local resistance and, in general, things go the way they always do in these war of the worlds movies.
What does the whole thing mean? Well, that “sometimes you don’t know who you are until something happens.” Which is probably true enough that we didn’t need to bring in alien creatures who make disconnected light bulbs glow in order to prove the point.
At least this didn’t cost anything to make. In some ways “The Darkest Hour” is a throw-back to the days of Japanese horror films, with Hirsch filling the place that in the 1950s belonged to Raymond Burr. There aren’t many actors in most of the scenes, even the nightclub one. The special effects are modest by our contemporary standards. And nobody’s spent any money on the dialog.
Nevertheless, I found “The Darkest Hour” to be refreshing, something different than the big budget, big star, big cast films that came out around Christmas. It is only like them in that it, too, has a Swede for a villain. And its about time these obvious devils got the Hollywood treatment they have long deserved.