×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

SXSW Review: ‘Hours’

Director Eric Heisserer makes an impressive debut with Paul Walker-starrer

An ingeniously simple setup is cunningly exploited for maximum suspense in “Hours,” a slow-building, consistently engrossing drama set during and immediately after the devastation wrought on New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina. Making a most impressive debut as feature helmer, scripter Eric Heisserer graduates from savvy genre fare (“Final Destination 5”) to more mainstream moviemaking with this intense tale of a father’s desperate efforts to keep his prematurely born daughter alive in a hospital abandoned after power is knocked out by flooding. This indie pic could perform profitably in theatrical runs before storming into homescreen platforms.

Paul Walker (“Fast & Furious”) capably and compellingly rises to the demands of the role of Nolan Hayes, a loving husband who races his pregnant wife Abigail to a New Orleans hospital when she goes into labor unexpectedly. Onscreen titles announce the extent of the couple’s wrong-place/wrong-time hospital arrival: the early hours of Aug. 29, 2005, just as gale-force winds caused by Katrina relentlessly pummel the Crescent City.

Abigail dies during childbirth, but the stunned Nolan has little time to mourn. His newborn child is placed in a ventilator, where, a doctor explains, she must remain for at least 48 hours. Unfortunately, when the city’s levee system fails, floodwaters force the evacuation of the hospital. Worse still, the ventilator cannot be moved, so Nolan must remain behind with his daughter until help arrives.

It’s a long wait.

Through effective use of actual newscasts from the period, “Hours” underscores a brutal irony — Katrina actually missed New Orleans, but the levee breaks caused flooding in 80% of the city — while establishing the full measure of the threat facing Nolan and his newborn. When the power cuts off and backup generators fail, he must repeatedly crank a back-up battery that works, at best, for three minutes between crankings, while scavenging for food and supplies throughout the hospital.

At one point, his spirits are lifted by the seemingly miraculous appearance of a rescue dog. But then other, far less welcome visitors arrive.

A few supporting players (including Kerry Cahill as a sympathetic nurse) are used fleetingly but effectively, and Genesis Rodriguez makes a strong impression with limited screen time in flashbacks. For the most part, though, “Hours” is practically a one-man show, with Walker alone oncamera for lengthy stretches as Nolan passes time talking to his baby, or himself, and dashing hither and yon between battery-cranks while on beat-the-clock explorations and supply runs.

The new father pushes himself to the point of exhaustion and beyond in ways that will ring true, and perhaps profoundly unsettle, simpatico parents watching the pic.

Walker gracefully balances the drama on his shoulders. His character’s situation seems all the more dire as Heisserer shrewdly amps up the tension with Benjamin Wallfisch’s propulsive musical score, Jaron Presant’s nimble lensing (with an Arri Alexa Plus digital camera) and Sam Bauer’s sharp editing.

It’s worth noting that “Hours” was filmed almost entirely inside a former New Orleans hospital that actually had to be closed after suffering massive flood damage in the wake of Katrina. That might help explain the pic’s overall air of verisimilitude, which only serves to enhance its impact.

Hours

Reviewed at SXSW Film Festival (Narrative Spotlight), March 12, 2013. Running time: 97 MIN.

A Safran Co. production in association with Laguna Ridge Pictures, Palm Star Media Capital and Hirsch Group. Produced by Peter Safran. Executive producers, Kevin Frakes, Ken Hirsch, Paul Walker, Dan Clifton. Co-producers, Scott Willmann, Brandon Birtell.

Directed, written by Eric Heisserer. Camera (color), Jaron Presant; editor, Sam Bauer; music, Benjamin Wallfisch; production designer, William Elliott; art director, Ray Pumilia; costume designer, Claire Breaux; sound (Dolby Digital), Erik Magnus; assistant director, Mark Stevens; casting, Ryan Glorioso. With: Paul Walker, Genesis Rodriguez, Kerry Cahill, Yohance Miles, Matt Cook, Nick Gomez.

SXSW Review: 'Hours'

More Film

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Interscope Films Relaunches With Full Slate at Tribeca (EXCLUSIVE)

    The Interscope record label’s interest in film/music crossover isn’t exactly a secret: With hit companion albums for “A Star Is Born,” “Black Panther” and “La La Land,” they’ve seemed to own the soundtrack space at times in recent years. And the company hasn’t completely made a secret of its desire to move into film production. [...]

  • Avengers: Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame': Fans and Theaters Assemble for Biggest Marvel Movie Ever

    For San Diego resident Shawn Richter, “Avengers: Endgame” is more than the conclusion to a monumental period in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As the West Coast branch chair of Avengers Initiative, a cosplay charity that raises money for causes like the Ronald McDonald House Children’s Charities, the comics of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are [...]

  • Jillian Bell appears in Brittany Runs

    Amazon's 'Brittany Runs a Marathon' Sets Summer Release

    “Brittany Runs a Marathon” will be rushing to theaters on Aug. 23. Amazon Studios dated the comedy on Wednesday. The pic, starring Jillian Bell (“Rough Night,” “22 Jump Street”), won the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival. The flick follows the titutal Brittany, who decides to run around New York City in order to [...]

  • Lionsgate Hires Lynn Whitney in Marketing

    Lionsgate Hires Former Warner Bros. Exec Lynn Whitney

    Lionsgate announced Wednesday that Lynn Whitney will become head of worldwide paid media, partnerships, promotions and consumer products. Whitney was formerly the executive VP of worldwide media at Warner Bros.   In her new role, Whitney will build out media campaigns for movies like Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron’s romantic comedy “Long Shot.” “I am [...]

  • El silencio de otros

    Film Review: 'The Silence of Others'

    “Forgiven but not forgotten” is a platitude we routinely use to end disputes both petty and grievous, but it’s the reverse outcome — the mass forgetting of crimes and conflicts never truly resolved — that itches away at a post-Franco Spain in “The Silence of Others.” Soberly chronicling the ongoing legal battle of General Franco’s [...]

  • A Womans Work-The NFLs Cheerleader Problem

    Tribeca Documentaries Explore Gender Issues in Sport

    Up until recently, what it meant to be a professional female athlete in a world dominated by men wasn’t an issue that garnered high volumes of public interest, let alone national headlines. But that all changed in October 2017 when stories from the New York Times and the New Yorker detailing sexual allegations and improper [...]

  • Lizzo Coachella Valley Music and Arts

    Lizzo Joins Cardi B and Jennifer Lopez in Stripper Film 'Hustlers'

    After the release of her third album and a pair of high-profile Coachella performances, Lizzo announced today that she will be joining Cardi B and Jennifer Lopez in the stripper-themed film “Hustlers.” Based on a true story, the film focuses on strippers who band together to turn the tables on their wealthy Wall Street male [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content