DVD Review - Hours (2013)

I think I understand why Paul Walker might have found this movie or his previous independent film attractive. Walker has done various films, but even if he hadn't died at the young age of 40, he would forever be known as the blonde, seemingly surfer dude from The Fast and the Furious movies. The franchise had reached its sixth installment and Walker was less the star or focus of the franchise as Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson now were. Walker was part of the ensemble but had been pushed more to the background.

He wouldn't have given up The Fast and the Furious because it's too much of a money-maker, but I can understand how he could yearn for projects that place the focus back on him and only him as the star. He picked two extremes in Vehicle 19, his previous independent film, and this one, which also has him alone on screen for the majority of the time. This is Walker's Cast Away (2000) or his Gravity (2013) or his All is Lost (2013).

The obvious concerns are if screenwriter Eric Heisserer (Final Destination 5 and The Thing) in his directorial debut has an actor that can carry people's attention for over a hour and a half and if Heisserer can concoct enough things for the protagonist to do, given the character is trapped in one place in which he can't leave. The latter might seem like the most daunting task, but if the film Buried (2010) can do it for Hollywood hunk Ryan Reynolds, then clearly Heisserer should be able to do it here for Walker.

The former might seem easier but depending on the material could be far more difficult. For Cast Away, one needs someone like Tom Hanks or else the whole thing could fall apart. For something like All is Lost, I don't believe Robert Redford was essential. The reason is because that movie is basically all action. J.C. Chandor rarely gives Redford a moment when he's not doing something. In keeping the character busy, he keeps the audience busy, so that character building or any kind of psychological storytelling can be forgone in service of maintaining the action for survival. For that, any able body that fits the age group or whatever requisite demographics would do.

The same essentially goes for Heisserer's effort here. Unlike Chandor though, Heisserer does some psychological storytelling, providing us with flashbacks and a bit more character development. For stuff like this a young Redford or young Hanks would have been more preferrable.

Walker is a tall, blue-eyed, blonde-haired, pretty boy whose naked physique has certainly impressed many. Walker has also been well-used in films like Pleasantville (1998) and Joy Ride (2001), but I've never been singularly able to denote a Walker acting performance as outstanding beyond the superficial. This performance marks a change in that. The arc started with Vehicle 19 (2013) but Hours certainly is a point on the curve sloping upward.

Paul Walker plays Nolan Hayes, a man who becomes trapped in a New Orleans hospital the night Hurricane Katrina hits. Unlike Buried or All is Lost, Nolan isn't physically trapped. He could leave any time that he wanted. He's rather emotionally tethered because his wife just gave birth to a premature baby who can't leave the hospital because the baby needs to stay in its incubator.

In order to keep things interesting, Heisserer develops about a half-dozen or so challenges that threaten Nolan or interfere with keeping him tethered. As with these survival films, the challenges seemingly build and get progressively worse, and Walker does a good job of portraying Nolan's deconstruction.

There is a moment like in Gravity where Nolan talks to his wife Abigail, played by Genesis Rodriguez (Man on a Ledge and Casa de mi Padre). In this moment, it's hinted that Nolan could reach a point where he gives up and simply leaves the baby. This moment packs a punch. His possible unwillingness to be a father and seemingly certain defeat as one comes through on Walker's face and body.

Heisserer doesn't dwell on this moment for too long though. That unwillingness and that defeat are perhaps too dark a road for the filmmaker to travel. His hope lies in Nolan's sense of fatherhood never wavering. As such, the film becomes an endurance test of what this new father will do and how far he will go to keep his baby alive, even as the obstacles get ridiculously tougher.

It's not all morose. Walker has a bit of comedy to handle in terms of changing diapers. He can also be endearing in times where he's essentially talking to himself. I also enjoy real moments like when Nolan trips and falls. It is perhaps the most real that I've seen Paul Walker be.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for violence and drug material.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 37 mins.


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