This film is set during the period of Hurricane Katrina, in 2005, the year post-hardcore band Funeral for a Friend released their album "Hours", while David Bowie's "'Hours...'" was reissued with a second disc that was plagued with remixes, so doesn't this film remind us of enough horrifying tragedies without starring Paul Walker? Shoot, it's easy to get this film confused with 2002's "[u]The[/u] Hours", which was itself kind of depressing, so this film is all kinds of downputting with its reminders, yet the producers can at least be happy that this film is going to get a whole lot more attention than plenty of other thrillers this low in profile, even if that attention is coming through morbid curiosity. I understand that this film gets its title from the amount of time Walker's character has to wait to see if his newborn child will survive in an incubator that runs low on power while Katrina is outside messing some stuff up, but the title is most fitting because it practically came out mere hours after Walker died. Yeah, maybe a joke, even one that light, about this situation is a little unnerving at this time, but hey, I've already heard some jerks say "Fast and Furious 6 Feet Under" and that Walker went from "Fast and Furious" to "Gone in 60 Seconds". Some people just have no self-control, like you jerks out there who are chuckling a little bit right now, confident that no one knows that it's over those Paul Walker jokes. Seriously though, folks, Walker was taken from us "2 Fast 2 Soon"-I mean, too soon (I've also heard someone make that joke already anyways; you're dirtbags, the lot of ya!), and only now do we realize that he actually did have some genuine talent to him. Well, to be fair, this film helps, and yet, as good as Walker is, or rather, was in it, this film unnerves with more than just reminders of disturbing events.
All but to my surprise, the film is never all that bland, let alone dull, but it is sometimes a little too thoughtful for its own good, with a steady atmosphere behind intentionally draggy material gnawing at momentum of the film until it ultimately falls into, maybe not considerable blandness, but a fair deal of repetition. At least as writer, Eric Heisserer's struggle to find material to keep up the hour and thirty-seven minutes, just as Paul Walker's Nolan Haynes character struggles to keep up the hours, is generally comfortable, yet there are still plenty of aimless moments, and that's blanding enough when you take out of account how much of the material that is being forced in is formulaic. It's hard to make a story like this refreshing, but the film tries in certain places, and that makes its easier to notice the places in which the film doesn't try as much as it should to put a twist on things, and succumbs to tropes that dilute much of the drama's weight, especially when those tropes prove to be manipulative ones. This is a generally genuine film that sustains subtlety longer than one might expect, but for only so long before slipping into dramatic devices that range from somewhat forced thriller set pieces to a touch too much emphasis on dramatic bite with the meditative atmosphere, and can at least be respected for trying to flesh out intrigue. Yes, the film is sometimes slow and manipulative, and it's consistently very formulaic, yet natural shortcomings are what really do damage here, because even though the dramatic plot is worthy, it's minimalist, relying on steady conflicts, rather than all that much intensity, but still holding a potential to be really effective that would be satisfied if the film was more consistent with matching ambition with inspiration. As things stand, as much as the film tries to and, for that matter, succeeds in crafting an effective drama, only so much can be done to charge this promising effort on paper, without all of the conventions and issues in pacing and subtlety that the interpretation brings into play. What you ultimately end up with is an underwhelming, maybe even kind of forgettable film, but it is not nearly as misguided as I feared it would be, bordering on genuinely rewarding, and getting there on the back of a genuineness that even extends to the film's musical style.
Even Benjamin Wallfisch's score is conventional, but it's not quite as trite as other formulaic, atmospherically dramatic scores of its nature, offering a fair deal of inspiration to light, softly intense stylization that is both aesthetically impressive and complimentary to the selling of an equally lightly intense narrative. Again, this story is too minimalist for its own good, as well as much too familiar for its own good, and yet, it's about as refreshing as it can be, as well as tasteful, offering a touch too much material, much of which is less manipulative and more tasteful with its meditative approach to both the affects of the unforgettable Hurricane Katrina, as well as a man's struggle to cope with dangers and loss as he struggles to survive and protect his child. This worthy subject matter is handled a little blandly, and occasionally with only so much subtlety, yet Eric Heisserer's script has its share of well-rounded, thoughtful elements, done justice by highlights in Heisserer's other storytelling performance. I can't say that I feel that Heisserer is as assured as he probably should in his meditative directorial storytelling, but where Heisserer could have almost consistently gotten too emphatic of should-be subtleties, momentum to storytelling is generally just intense enough to challenge dullness, while delicacy is prominent enough to absorb tonal impact, whether it be in the form of tension or resonance. Really, there's not a whole lot to praise here, and that, combined with natural shortcomings, make the final product decidedly underwhelming, but this effort really isn't as underwhelming as I feared it would be, as there is a certain inspiration that tries its hardest to grip, even if it's not as consistent with succeeding in that regard as Paul Walker. Look, people, let's be honest, I hope that Walker rests in peace and all, but he's been hit-or-miss in the past, and considering that this is more-or-less a one-man acting vehicle, I feared that Walker wasn't going to be as strong as he should be for a film of this type, let alone able to turn in the memorably strong final performance that all potentially talented performers want to go out on, but when it comes down to the wire, Walker goes well above my expectations by showing just how much he has fleshed out his skills throughout the course of a career that was all too recently cut much too short, utilizing a broad emotional range and layered presence to capture the gradual breaking of a man in a dangerous situation who can only focus on preserving the fragile life of a child, the only thing he has left after tragedy takes from him the beloved mother of his inspiration for persevering. While Walker is not given the material to be great, he is truly excellent, and I can't emphasize enough to people that I am by no means being influenced by Walker's tragic passing when I say that this is one of the better lead performances of 2013, complete with a subtlety and power that many of us didn't think Walker was capable of, and carries this film a long way, maybe not to the point of making a truly rewarding minimalist drama, but certainly to the point of playing a big part in making this a decent film that is better than I expected, even if it's still far from the best it can be.
When time is up, the final product sputters out as relatively underwhelming under the weight of some slow spells and subtlety lapses, plenty of conventions, and a considerable deal of natural shortcomings, though not as deeply as I feared it would, as there is enough tastefulness to scoring, writing and direction to the telling of a worthy, if minimalist story, and inspiration to Paul Walker's excellent lead performance to make Eric Heisserer's "Hours" a pretty engaging and sometimes gripping dramatic thriller, in spite of the shortcomings, both consequential and natural.
2.75/5 - Decent