Movie Reviews

‘Hours’: Absorbing, tense, yet filled with hope

By Wang DexianMovies - 08 January 2014 12:00 AM | Updated 5:03 PM

‘Hours’: Absorbing, tense, yet filled with hope

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Rating: 3.5/5

Paul Walker's unfortunate passing in December 2013 makes ‘Hours’ the last full movie he completed.

Set during the events of Hurricane Katrina, the movie revolves around Nolan Hayes (Walker), whose wife Abigail (Genesis Rodriguez) is going into early labour.

What should have been the happiest day for Hayes quickly takes a turn for the worse when Abigail dies during childbirth. Due to the early birth, his new baby needs to be on a neonatal incubator for 48 hours to aid with her breathing. Just as that happens, Katrina hits, and people are evacuated. 

However, Hayes and his new baby girl need to stay at the hospital despite being cut off from the world without power, the prospect of being flooded in, all the while facing minute-after-minute life and death decisions in a desperate bid to keep his new-born alive.

Reminiscent of other classic isolation type thrillers such as ‘Buried’ (2010), the infant’s need for an incubator makes the set-up more interesting due to the ticking clock factor, adding overall tension to the plot.  

Read also: 5 Paul Walker movies beyond 'Fast & Furious'

Gradually, the movie throws more obstacles onto Hayes, such as the power supply going out and the rampant looting that occurred during Katrina. The power running out makes for one of the film's key moments, as the incubator is then kept alive by a little hand crank generator, which gives the it all of three minutes of power. 

Imagine turning the crank for 48-hours straight,  that's your arm telling you that it's already sore. Watching Walker crank a little handle only serves to emphasise the sheer punishment the character is going through.

Much of the movie falls on Paul Walker's lone shoulders. And thankfully, he's up to it.

While Walker was never considered an actor with a really wide range, he's always exuded an every day, every man quality to him that was inherently likable and easy to root for.

In this movie, he taps into that very Ordinary Joe quality of his and goes all out with it. 

Here is a hero who's very much like the most of us, fighting through both joy and heartbreak, not to mention the very real physical exhaustion.

He conjures up a healthy dose of empathy, which is in turn converts to a feeling of dread... as you wonder what else Hayes will be facing in the corridors of the hurricane ravaged hospital. 

A few of the only scenes where Walker isn't alone with the baby are flashbacks of his life with his wife. Walker and Rodriguez are terrific, playing off each other perfectly as they illustrate the backstory of how Hayes and Abigail met and eventually got married. 

Though the interactions are slightly melodramatic, it provides an inner look at what Nolan is struggling with and hanging onto throughout the ordeal, providing even more empathy for Walker's character.

Clocking in at 97 minutes, ‘Hours’ is a rather short movie and  feels a little uneven because of the nature of its premise. While it’s recognised that the filmmakers have their hands tied to keep the story moving through Hayes’ various setbacks, some feel more organic than the others.

Nevertheless, ‘Hours’ works and is evidence of the power of strong thematic storytelling.

Exploiting its simple premise to the fullest, the movie somehow turns into a thoroughly absorbing ‘Speed’ clone; except with none of the cars and in their place, a baby in an incubator.

While it may be frustrating at times, Walker's low-key performance is deeply involving and everything is worth it in the end as the movie leads up to a heart-wrenching final shot, capping off a fine farewell performance from Paul Walker. 

‘Hours’ opens in cinemas 9 January