– Summary –
Director : Eric Heisserer
Year Of Release : 2013
Principal Cast : Paul Walker, Genesis Rodriguez, TJ Hassan, Nick Gomez, Judd Lormand, Michelle Torres, Kerry Cahill.
Approx Running Time : 96 Minutes
Synopsis: After the death of his wife during childbirth, one man must fight to survive inside a hospital during Hurricane Katrina, one of the worst tropical storms to ever hit the US.
What we think : Gradually, oh so gradually, Hours goes from being a decidedly dull survival premise into a mediocre character-driven one. Persistent viewers might feel rewarded by a compelling story taking them on a journey, but in the end the film just spends too long doing what it wants to, to be anywhere near as entertaining as it should.
Hours. That’s how long this film feels.
Paul Walker’s acting career breakout launched in 2001’s The Fast & The Furious, that distinctive street-racing franchise which now bears a striking resemblance to a heist-flick franchise, and came to a crashing halt in a vehicle accident that claimed his life in November of 2013. Although blessed with good looks and a natural appeal on the big screen, his range as a performer was always – in my opinion – rather limited. He remained a rather wooden actor, incapable of anything genuine, or at least anything which comes across as such on the screen. Mind you, the same could be said of a whole swag of superstar actors past and present, so it’s not entirely hard to understand how he managed to get by on either his looks, or his name above the title drawing in crowds. Hours sees Walker given an opportunity to stretch himself as an actor, to test his range in an emotional, at times haunting story about a man trying to – and you’ll have to pardon the obvious pun – weather the storm of Hurricane Katrina, in New Orleans in 2005, after the death of his wife and birth of his first child. With a setting like that, there’s a fair amount of predestined emotional baggage for an audience – considering Katrina’s impact on US disaster relief afterwards – but it’s really up to Walker to take this film through whatever wringer the story demands. As a leading man, my hopes weren’t high for an Oscar-caliber performance, rather I hold onto hope that he’ll lower the square-jawed machismo enough to bring a sense of real-live human being to the part. Does he succeed? Does Walker carry it off? Is Hours a solid departure for the young actor, or is he simply lost when not behind the wheel of a furiously speeding sport car?
Nolan (Paul Walker) arrives at a New Orleans hospital with his pregnant wife, Abigail (Genesis Rodriguez), who is having some kind of medical issue. After Abigail dies giving birth, Nolan must take care of his new daughter as Hurricane Katrina bears down on the city. When the hospital is evacuated, Nolan is left behind with no power and limited resources, and the ventilator keeping his child alive has limited battery life. Every two minutes he must wind a charger to provide the machine with more power, and as the situation becomes more desperate across the city, Nolan must face the possibility that neither he nor his daughter will make it out alive.
On the one hand, Hours is a tense disaster flick, heightened by the knowledge that Katrina did actually happen, and on the other, it’s an intimate character-driven survival thriller: one man against the odds, and all that. Whether it’s a great combination, or just a good film, is a matter of opinion. Opinion, really, that depends largely on your appreciation for Paul Walker’s acting talent. Me? I’ve already mentioned my ambivalence towards the man, and while he’s commendably brave to put himself out front in a film this prone to lengthy bursts of emotion, Walker’s unable to deliver what’s required to really hammer this one home. Hours is predominantly a solo flick for Walker, who spends the majority of it alone in a rapidly flooding hospital in New Orleans, yet there are enough flashbacks to develop Genesis Rodriguez’ character, Abigail, to allow him to develop a real, genuine character out of Nolan. Walker ain’t Tom Hanks, who gave one of the great solo roles in Cast Away, yet for all his limitations as an actor, you can tell he’s giving it his all here. I guess having your name on the Producer roster makes you a little more invested, right?
Anyone expecting Hours to become some kind of apocalyptic disaster actioner will leave disappointed. Hours isn’t action-packed, and what little action there is is punctuated by large amounts of solitude and waiting, or tense, keeping-the-baby-alive moments. Directed on debut by Eric Heisserer, who until now is probably best known as the screenwriter of Final Destination 5 (let’s forget he also scripted the dire Nightmare On Elm Street reboot), Hours is moody, atmospheric, and slow. I mean, slow. Really slow. The film’s glacial pace means a lot of people will mistake this for a bad film, but it’s nice to see a modern dramatic story like this stay the course and slowly build, instead of bursting out of the blocks. Considering the time Nolan spends in the hospital waiting, it’s only natural to expect parts of the film to feel like they’re dragging simply to get the point across; taking that into account, Hours really does feel like it goes forever. Your appreciation for dramatic storytelling here will depend on your tolerance for a slowly paced movie. If you buy into Walker’s performance, or into the inherent tragedy of it all, you’ll find a moving, occasionally heart-breaking movie to savor and enjoy. If you don’t – like me – Hours will feel like you’ve wasted 90 minutes of your life.
Honestly, anything I see now with kids in peril, with realism, upsets me. The main draw for me with Hours is that Walker’s primary concern throughout is keeping the oxygen and medication to his daughters ventilator going, in the face of a lack of electricity and mod-cons. After finding out his wife has died, Nolan’s initial reaction is to reject his baby, before coming to terms with his loss and new life, and although this plot point seems brushed over rather quickly, as the film’s flashback/soliloquy-driven moments progress, this builds into a satisfying arc for Walker to produce. Although not as convincing an actor as he needed to be, at least he never deviates from his objective to give a solid, workmanlike performance. The way he interacts with the stationary infant in the ventilator tugged at my heart as a father, yet intellectually it never quite rang true. Co-star Genesis Rodriguez provides this film with its one, shining light. She lights up the screen, a kind of flame amongst the darkness, and her rapport with Walker seems genuine. After seeing her in Man On A Ledge, The Last Stand, and now in this, I think she has great potential as a genuine star (or is that just wishful thinking on my part?), I just wish she’d been in this film a lot more.
I wanted to like Hours, in light of Walker’s particular brand of acting (and as a penultimate big-screen swansong appearance for the late actor), and the intriguing premise the film presents. It’s a shame it’s so reliant on Walker to lead it, although it does have some moments that are really nice work. Is it thrilling, in the way it could have been? No, not really, but for what it is and does, Hours is occasionally tense, always moving forward (slowly) and ultimately an absorbing look into one man’s desperate struggle to keep his baby alive. In the end, though, it’s just a bit disappointing.