Hours DVD ReviewMarch 9, 2014
After Paul Walker’s unfortunate death late last year, it’s tough to watch Hours — one of the Fast & Furious actor’s final films — without thinking about what could have been. Walker turns in one of his finest, most earnest performances in this intense thriller, and if tragedy hadn’t struck I could see him getting more chances to shine in dramatic roles based on his work here. Set in New Orleans during the relentless, devastating Hurricane Katrina, Hours follows Nolan Hayes (Walker) as his situation goes from bad to worse, testing the limits of his will to survive against impossible odds.
Nolan arrives at a New Orleans hospital with his pregnant wife Abigail (Genesis Rodriguez), who has gone into early labor. The storm rages on outside, as Nolan sits in a waiting room deep in thought and prayer. He barely notices when a window is blown out ten feet away from him, as he’s so consumed with worry for the lives of his wife and daughter. Shortly thereafter, his whole life comes crashing down around him, as Abigail dies during childbirth and his daughter is left in critical condition. Nolan is given hardly any time to react to the situation before an evacuation starts. But Nolan can’t leave the hospital – his newborn daughter is dependent on a ventilator, and soon enough he’s left alone and and tasked with keeping her alive as the hospital floods, taking the possibility of immediate rescue and backup electricity with it. With the incubator’s battery slowly dwindling, Nolan must use a crank generator every few minutes to recharge the battery until help can arrive.
Hours is a particularly stressful film, as so many wrenches are thrown in the works constantly. The film also feels a bit rushed, as within the first seven minutes Nolan is notified of his wife’s passing, and given only moments to pull himself together before the plot needs to advance. He’s literally pulled from this pivotal scene to the next just to get some exposition out of the way, robbing the moment of its emotional punch. While the direction feels off in the film’s earliest moments, Hours finds its footing as the story plays out, and Walker becomes more comfortable in the role. This is essential as for the rest of the movie Walker is mostly alone, with only his daughter to talk to, in mostly one hospital room. Thankfully, the film manages to stay suspenseful and intriguing throughout its entire 97 minute runtime.
There are intermittent flashbacks throughout the film, showing Nolan’s life with Abigail before all this madness. These moments help lend emotional weight to Nolan’s grief, and Walker gets to show off his charm and everyman relatability in these scenes. As the film goes on, Nolan becomes more and more delirious as he goes more than 48 hours with no sleep, desperately trying to seek help from helicopters and find working generators in less-than-three-minute gaps of time, before he has to manually turn the generator crank again. This plot device lends Hours a unique sense of urgency.
One major downside to the DVD release of Hours is that there are literally no special features other than a music video, and a promo for Paul Walker’s Reach Out WorldWide charity. I would have hoped for at least a commentary or behind-the-scenes featurette, but at least you get a digital Ultraviolet copy with purchase of the DVD.
While Hours ultimately feels pretty predictable and conventional, aside from its unique plot device, Paul Walker’s final (fully completed) performance is engrossing enough to carry the film throughout its relatively short runtime. Walker gets to showcase a pretty wide acting range here, and his utter despair, rage, and desperation feel completely believable. Genesis Rodriguez does a solid job as his wife Abigail, in what little screen time she has. First-time director Eric Heisserer’s lack of experience is noticeable in a few awkwardly directed sequences, but for the most part this is limited to the film’s opening moments. Overall, Hours is worth watching to witness Paul Walker’s last performance, in a role where gets to do more than his typical action hero schtick.