Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Hours is set in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and focuses on Nolan and Abigail Hayes, a young married couple who in the midst of the storm fatefully arrive at a hospital to deliver their first child, which is arriving five weeks early. As the night’s tragic events unfold, Nolan is left widowed when Abigail dies during childbirth, leaving him to face an uncertain future with his infant daughter. As the hours pass and the storm rages outside, the new father struggles to cope with his pain and loss, while trying to focus on the beautiful baby created from his and his wife’s love. Since the baby is a preemie, the doctor informs Nolan that she’ll need to be on a ventilator for at least 48 hours, and in blatant foreshadowing states that you’ll know she’s out of the woods when you hear her cry for the first time.
Conditions in the city and at the hospital turn dire and despite all denials of a need for panic, doctors and patients quickly begin to be evacuated, a step Nolan can’t take given his daughter’s need for a ventilator so he's left behind alone at the hospital, except for his daughter, waiting for help to arrive. When things couldn’t seem to get worse, they do; for as the sun peeks through the clouds signifying the end of the storm, the levees break. The streets are flooded hampering hopes for rescue and then the hospital’s lower floors are flooded, the rising water taking with it not only the lights but the building’s main backup generators. As the hours pass and hope seems futile, Nolan can only rely on a small hand-cranked battery to keep his daughter’s ventilator functioning, all while facing unexpected life-threatening dangers in his struggle to keep his baby daughter alive.
Hours was a compelling film which truly does justice to Walker’s growing talent. The film is a departure from Walker’s usual action films (The Fast and Furious or Into the Blue) in that it features a touching and poignant story with just enough thrills to keep it interesting instead of two hours straight of high-speed pursuits and blow 'em up shootouts. The film features an hour-by-hour countdown clock for the day's events that helps build the tension, while more thrilling scenes depicting a desperate Nolan battling looting drug addicts ultimately show Walker at his action-hero best.
I am not surprised at Walker’s attempts to stretch himself through this more demanding role, it seems like most young stars want to be seen as more than just a one-trick pony; but I am surprised by the fact that he totally delivered. The success of the story falls squarely on Walker’s shoulders and his believability as a man struggling to stay afloat of his sadness, anger, despair, and desperation; and he easily conveys every emotion. There was only one time in the film where I felt the moment was too big for him (when Nolan's informed of his wife's death), but there were countless other tender moments in the film; when he’s talking to his baby, telling her about his and Abigail’s love story or sharing words of wisdom from his own father, when you forget the pretty face and are instead touched by his gentleness and find yourself inexorably falling under his spell and fervently rooting for his character's survival, as if this was a real life or death struggle.
If you’re a Paul Walker fan, you’ll want to see Hours; and if you’re not, you should see it to get a full measure of the talent and potential that we've lost. Hours is an engrossing drama which highlights the strength of the human spirit and the determined power of love, all while keeping you on the edge of your seat.