Darkest Hour shines in gripping alien tale

The Darkest Hour

Aspiring internet entrepreneurs Sean (Emile Hirsch) and Ben (Max Minghella) travel to Moscow to sell their online vision to business partner Skylar (Joel Kinnaman).

However, he rips them off and Sean and Ben drown their sorrows in a bar where they meet beautiful party girls Natalie (Olivia Thirlby) and Anne (Rachael Taylor).

As the party continues, strange lights fall from the sky all over the capital, heralding the start of an alien invasion.

The invisible extra-terrestrials vaporise their human prey on contact, forcing Sean, Ben, Natalie and Anne to go into hiding with a feisty Russian teenager called Vika (Veronika Ozerova).

Through observation, the survivors deduce that the aliens emit an electrical charge, which can be detected by light bulbs and other devices.

Armed with bulbs as rudimentary early warning devices, the young people make their way through the wasteland of Moscow, searching for other pockets of human resistance.

Rating: HHH

Shame (18)

Michael Fassbender delivers a fearless, emotionally raw performance as a sex addict wrestling with his myriad demons in artist-turned-director Steve McQueen’s follow-up to the critically feted Hunger.

Brandon (Fassbender) is a handsome thirty-something office worker who is never short of bedfellows, including one of the secretaries (Nicole Beharie).

Anonymous pick-ups temporarily sate his cravings for physical pleasure but at night, he hungrily scours adult sites on the internet.

Brandon’s routine of soulless couplings and seedy hook-ups is thrown into disarray by the arrival of his needy, younger sibling, Sissy (Carey Mulligan), who is carving out a career as a singer.

Rating: HHHHH

Margin Call (15)

Junior risk analysts Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto) and Seth Bregman (Penn Badgley) watch with horror as human resources sweeps through their floor, pulling aside employees, including their boss Eric (Stanley Tucci), as part of a massive redundancy plan.

“Be careful,” Eric warns Peter, handing his brightest underling a memory stick before he is escorted from the building.

Peter spends the night assessing the data and he makes a horrifying discovery: the company’s formula for long-term growth is fatally flawed.

Having alerted senior colleague Will Emerson (Paul Bettany) and head of sales Sam Rogers (Kevin Spacey), Peter and Seth watch in awe as high-ranking executives, including head of securities Jared Cohen (Simon Baker) and ballsy head of risk assessment Sarah Robertson (Demi Moore), rush to the office in the dead of night.

Then CEO John Tuld (Jeremy Irons) listens with cool detachment as Peter reiterates his sobering findings.

Rating: HHHH

The Iron Lady (12A)

The Iron Lady paints a sketchy portrait of our first female prime minister as she looks back over her life from the comfort of her lodgings at Chester Square in London’s swanky Belgravia.

Baroness Thatcher (Meryl Streep) juggles a busy social diary with the help of assistants and her daughter Carol (Olivia Colman).

Comforted by the ghost of her late husband, Denis (Jim Broadbent), Thatcher allows her mind to wander back to the 1984 IRA bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton during the Conservative Party conference, the Falklands war and her downfall precipitated by a critical speech from Geoffrey Howe (Anthony Head) in front of appalled fellow Cabinet ministers.

She fondly recalls the words of her shopkeeper father (Iain Glen) and holds her course when the whispering begins on the backbenches.

Rating: HHHH

The Artist (PG)

Writer-director Michel Hazanavicius steps back to the early part of the 20th century, when handsome and romantically unattached screen idol George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is setting hearts aflutter.

On the set of his latest production, George meets aspiring starlet Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) and he is smitten. Fame is fickle and George falls on painfully hard times

Rating: HHHHH