Continuing a stellar run for Australian cinema in 2014 is the fantastic low-fi apocalypse drama These Final Hours. It’s a brutally honest examination of the human condition when the end is near, that covers every emotion on the spectrum in just under ninety minutes – and a neat reimagining of a well worn genre to boot. It’s a wild ride, and I sat down with the star of the film to get his take on the story.
Nathan Phillips plays James, a regular Aussie guy at the heart of the film. “He’s coming out of his twenties and into his thirties, and I think from his past he was a bit of a selfish, self obsessed kinda guy,” Phillips says. “There’s so many things that aren’t very redeemable about him, but James is such an earnest bloke on the threshold of finding substance in his life. He has to take a long road to redemption – he takes a few wrong turns but he’s living, he’s learning, and that’s what this human experience is about – James is just the everyday bloke that we can all relate to, he’s trying to just work it out and he gets there in the end.”
When Phillips read the script, he instantly connected with the world that writer-director Zak Hilditch created. “It was a very well written, very honest script – genre sci fi, a fun genre – it was Australian, it’s now and i just really fell in love with the writing. And what a role, there’s an arc of sensitivity and masculinity and bravado, this deep sensitive guy underneath all that and trying to create that on screen was a fun challenge.”
When I speak to Phillips after the premiere in Brisbane, it’s the first time he’s seen the film since its premiere at the Melbourne International Film Festival almost a year ago – “it really reignited a lot of things I hadn’t really thought about – the humour jumped out, the relationships jumped out – and the ending of the movie, where she says “it’s beautiful”. For me, I could just want to write a thesis on it, talk all the different themes and the questions that it raises – there’s so much in there – but this isn’t a film with an agenda of selling Christianity or spirituality. It’s a great film commenting on the human condition.”
“It’s a great film that will allow an audience to step away and take something home, something to mull over – hopefully call a loved one or just wanna reach out to someone. Zak Hilditch did an incredible job, taking a very honest look at how people deal with this big confronting idea.” Each character’s reaction to the fast approaching end is different from the next, but Phillips says it’s the reaction of James’ mother, played by Lynette Curran, that he connected with the most – “the simplicity of it – “I’m just gonna do some puzzles”. She’s not fearing it, she’s not running – even for her to say that line, it made me laugh so hard, ‘when you can’t see your grandkids, the end can’t come soon enough’ and I’m like ‘you can’t say that!’ but that’s her, she’s very very brash.”
Since its premiere at MIFF in 2013, These Final Hours has since been across the world – and Phillips enthusiastically tells me that the film’s outing at Cannes was the highlight of the experience. “It’s just such a bucket list thing – it’s Disneyland for us big kids! It’s a mecca of filmmaking, the best festival in the world. Just being able to share it with everyone, it’s such a great film to be championing and to be a part of – it’s a very interesting look at a genre that’s very appealing to people, it’s very simple and smart and eloquent and very Australian. You’re seeing a new crop of wonderful talent – Sarah Snook, Jess De Gouw, Angourie Rice – what a firecracker.”
For my last question, I asked him for one reason someone should line up and buy a ticket. “Everyone in this film is being confronted with their own story, their own existence, their own journey – how do you spend ‘these final hours’? I think this film reminds us that it’s really important to be, how love is the greatest gift we can give and share. If you’re feeling a little lost or feeling like you need to get your spiritual compass in line, I’d say go see this movie. Trust this is an Australian film where you’ll get bang for buck and you’ll walk away proud of a new piece of Australian cinema – quote me on that,” he says with a grin.
These Final Hours opens nationwide on July 31.