Release Date: December 13, 2013 (Limited)
Currently available on VOD platforms
Director: Eric Heisserer
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Film Pulse Score: 3.5/10
As Hurricane Katrina makes landfall in the city of New Orleans, Nolan Hayes takes his pregnant wife, Abigail, to the emergency room. Chaos reigns outside while the hospital staff does their best to maintain order inside. In the midst of it all, Nolan is informed that he has lost his wife but has a newborn daughter. Because of the premature birth the defenseless child must be kept on an incubator for the next 48 hours. As the hurricane worsens Nolan must do all he can to keep his daughter alive even if it means being left behind.
That is the set up for Eric Heisserer’s directorial debut Hours. On paper it sounds like it could be a harrowing suspense-drama. However, the film itself falls way short of what was likely intended. Much of the film’s problems rest in the hands of the director and screenwriter; which Heisserer also wrote. Heisserer’s previous writing credits include 2011’s The Thing, Final Destination 5 and the Elm Street remake. Drama is held to a higher standard than horror and despite all the good intentions this needed more work. Heisserer uses flashbacks to tell Nolan and Abigail’s back story of how they met and so on. The flashbacks are intrusive and despite trying to make it look as though Nolan was just telling his daughter a story it didn’t entirely work. Worst of all their back story isn’t at all interesting. How they met is so cheesy it takes you out of the story. You could care less about the past you just want to focus on what is happening now. Heisserer should have just let the camera focus on Nolan as he recounts their story. Another issue is that the dangers Nolan faces are very contrived. The “ticking clock” plot device is milked for all its worth but grows thin as it is used again and again and again to the point where they are clearly cheating in service of the story. The scenes where he encounters other people fell flat due to their clichéd nature and the introduction of a dog was excessive.
This film is essentially a one person show. The entire film rides on the shoulders of its leading man. If the viewer is not convinced that they are in this predicament then the audience will not be along for the ride. It’s a role that rides a emotional wave full of peaks and valleys. Here in lies another of the film’s problems. The leading man is the late Paul Walker. In what appears to be his first real, meaty, leading man, dramatic role he only fairs so well. Trouble is he was not convincing in the part. You just didn’t buy that he believes what he is performing and as a result neither do we. There was even a moment during a very emotional scene where he elicited a chuckle because it looked like he was channeling Keanu Reeves. It’s not just Walker but the entire supporting cast as well. A doctor asks for the patient’s blood pressure to which the nurse responds “high.” Are you serious? HIGH?!? Any actor would know the response should have been a reading and not “high.” The performances were not up to the standards that the material required and that can be put on Heisserer’s inexperience as a director.
Hours had potential but was shot down by a hackneyed screenplay, an untried director and a leading man who despite his best efforts was simply miscast. If you’re a Paul Walker fan than it goes with out saying, check it out. Otherwise you’d be better off passing on this one.