HOURS

Poffy The Cucumber

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Paul Walker in the first acting job of his career.

A Role of a Lifetime, at the end of a lifetime.

Paul Walker Hollywood Star becomes Paul Walker Actor in literally the last film of his cut-short career. Thankfully, it doesn’t affect his three-day growth.

When Hurricane Katrina cuts the power to an evacuated hospital, a father must keep his newborn daughter alive on a ventilator for 48 hours while trying to find help.

Walker is Nolan Hayes, an average expectant American father in New Orleans, who enters the hospital desperately keeping pace with the interns wheeling his pregnant wife (Genesis Rodriguez) in on a gurney as she screams in pain. The first intimation that Walker clearly Intends To Act is when the doctor brings news that his wife has died in childbirth. How hard must it be to assimilate such news? How much harder to act out this wrenching emotional rollercoaster believably? We wait with bated breath as Walker registers a mix of disbelief, anger, denial and pathos. That’s four more emotions than he’s ever shown onscreen before.

— Wait. Am I in the right dimension? Is this the same guy from RUNNING SCARED and FAST FIVE?

While the world thunders outside, Nolan is told that his baby girl must remain connected to a ventilator for 48 hours before she can breathe by herself. Nolan bluntly keeps disassociating himself from the child, “How long will this baby need this machine?” (my italics) It is the doctor that keeps referring to it as “your daughter.”

Still disbelieving that his wife has died, Nolan abandons the child to search for his wife. He finds a hallway full of corpses in bodybags, some on gurneys, some seemingly dumped on the floor, and… god, no!… his wife is on the floor. Movie is stacking the deck against us. We are weeping from the get-go. And so is Nolan, but – let me marvel over this truism – these are not Robert De Niro crocodile tears, Paul Walker is in a glass case of emotion as his real tears drip onto his wife’s bodybag. Now I’m weeping because Walker is doing such a great acting job!

Isolation, desolation, alienation; Nolan finds himself in this clinical, antiseptic place with a baby stranger, his wife ripped from him, and with the world outside coming apart at the seams. Earlier, he said to his child, “I don’t know you,” before setting off in search of his wife. That’s the arc, of course – at first he is total stranger to this helpless being; in finding the strength to keep it alive, Nolan becomes a father. He watches it comatose under the Perspex, the tube on its face inflating and deflating its lungs…

Hurricane Katrina coming like a dog in heat…

Hospital evacuating, doctors/nurses carrying babies, wheeling gurneys attached to I.V. drips, commotion, news reports of the tempest, his doctor rushes by. What do I do? Stay put…

Then the power goes dead.

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”Geez, is that the time? I gotta get these clothes back to the Runway Model Agency!”

Despite his alienation to this “it” in the ventilator, “it” is still a human fighting for life; an inbuilt species altruism kicks in and Nolan cannot abandon the baby. The emergency power kicks in at first, but it too goes dead, and Nolan finds a small generator to attach to the ventilator. He has to crank it every five minutes to keep it powered. Low battery, getting lower. Needs to find another – but he can only leave his baby’s side for 5-minute intervals.

Situation continues to ramp in urgency. The streets are deserted, the TV broadcasts are dead, the hospital is tomb-quiet. No one is coming. And the battery is dying. And his baby’s I.V. drip has run out. Find another. Crank battery. Search. Crank battery. Stray dog. Find food. Run back, crank battery…

Nolan finds another dying battery. Two minutes with each crank. He cries heavy tears as he talks to the rubber dolly in the ventilator– wait, I’m only being truthful, you don’t think there’s a real comatose newborn baby in there “acting” on the brink of death?

Everything Nolan does – runs the stairs to the rooftop looking for help, shouts down a helicopter which ignores him for a rooftop full of people, looks for food from vending machines or fridges, tries to locate a radio to call for help – he has to run back to pump that generator for two more frantic minutes. Not just a ticking clock – a ticking clock every two minutes.

Thirteen hours later… exhaustion hangs like a suffocating drape around Nolan. Consider: How many more hours was he anxiously awake even before these hours, as he brought in his sick wife? His three-day growth fighting the four-day shadow that threatens to overwhelm him. He’s got that three-day growth at the beginning of the movie and 48 hours later he’s still got a three-day growth. Shouldn’t it be a five-day growth by now? We presume that when they find him, the first thing they’re going to do is operate and try to remove that three-day growth because it must obviously be an alien parasite.

Armed thieves make an appearance – and a father makes a life-changing decision that I suspect no one in the audience would debate. A military guy appears and Nolan thinks his troubles are over – until the soldier steals all Nolan’s food at gunpoint (the military – sociopaths to the end)…

HOURS could have devolved into an action-adventure or fallen into melodrama, but writer-director Eric Heisserer crafts a controlled, intimate thought experiment. I call singular ideas like this “thought experiments,” but that seems disrespectful to those victims of Katrina who might have suffered worse calamities than Nolan and his dolly. While President Bush circled overhead, while Michael Brown did a heckuva job, Katrina must have ended, or been the indirect cause of ending, millions of lives in more ways than just death: impoverishment, PTSD, loved ones lost, chronic injuries, unfit to return to employment…

Nolan talks to the baby, reminiscing about the mommy it would never know, placing photos of his wife on the Perspex for the baby to “see,” amidst flashbacks showing us the great love and even greater sex Nolan shared with that spanking hot Genesis. And under his bloodied palm, the battery’s recharge time gets lower – from nearly 3:00 minutes to 2:00, to 1:51, to 1:27…

Then the handle breaks! In his exhaustion and desperation, Nolan starts breathing into the baby’s mouth…. Oh god!…

With such a powerful swansong, at least his friends, family, and – if there is some kind of consciousness after death – the essence that was Paul Walker himself, can rest secure in the knowledge that he at last succeeded at what he strived for all his life… a sexy three-day growth that would last forever…

END

Hours_titleHOURS (Dec 2013) PG-13
Director, Writer: Eric Heisserer.
Music: Benjamin Wallfisch.
Starring: Paul Walker, Genesis Rodriguez, Nancy Nave, Shane Jacobsen, Natalia Safran, TJ Hassan.
RATINGS-07imdb
Word Count: 1,120      No. 1,106
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