Movie Review: Hours
Directed by: Eric Heisserer
Starring: Paul Walker
Story: A father struggles to keep his daughter alive during Hurricane Katrina.
I remember when I first saw a trailer for this movie. My first thought was, “Oh, finally a Paul Walker movie I am actually interested in.” It’s an exaggeration, of course, but it definitely looked like Paul Walker was stepping out of his comfort zone. He plays Nolan Hayes, a father-to-be and adoring husband. His pregnant wife is carted around a hospital due to some complications. Unfortunately, she dies during childbirth, and their newborn daughter is left on a ventilator.
If that wasn’t bad enough, this is all happening on the verge of Hurricane Katrina that devastated New Orleans. The hospital starts to slowly evacuate nonessential employees and non-emergency patients. Eventually, everyone is carted off except Hayes’ daughter, whom he names after his late wife, Abigail. They need a very specific rig to move the ventilator without disconnecting the baby from it. Some staff members promise to come back with supplies and appropriate transportation, and Hayes decides to stay behind. Unfortunately, the streets flood and the hospital loses power. To keep the ventilator going, he has to attached a hand-cranked generator. The battery is only holding a 3 minute charge maximum so he has to keep cranking every so often.
Earlier, I said Paul Walker was exiting his comfort zone and underestimated his acting ability, but there is one thing that Paul Walker always did really well. It is why he was such a great action hero (like in the Fast and Furious movies) and a great horror/thriller victim (like in Joy Ride or Running Scared). Walker is really great at adrenaline-fueled frustration. The movie is filled with moments for Walker to fit a lot of action within the time span of 3 minutes or less so that he can get back to his daughter. Each action piece is more daunting than the last. It is all very exciting, but unfortunately, writer/director Eric Heisserer doesn’t seem to have any confidence in it.
Heisserer seems desperate for filler so that the movie is made up of more than just Walker’s in-the-moment struggles. He adds in a number of flashbacks that are charming but completely unnecessary. He also adds these strange conversations that Walker has with his daughter. They are awkward and insincere most of the time. Walker even has to justify it by saying “Sorry, I like to talk.” It is a little convoluted. These are by-the-book attempts at character development, but it is too much exposition. Heisserer gets so busy trying to explain the character, he must not see how Walker’s character is already laid bare for us to connect with in the tense present.
As if Paul Walker’s untimely passing could be anymore tragic, there is something truly heart-wrenching to know that he was only a week away from sharing his career best performance, even if it isn’t his career best movie.