Natural disasters (whose devastation is frequently worsened due to suspect planning by those tasked to protect their citizenry: paid, elected or both) have been fodder for the big screen since filmmakers realized the built-in marketing value that accrues from the tsunami of media attention generated by every calamity. (Even before the body count has been completed, rest assured that a “treatment” of Typhoon Haiyan is already in the works somewhere far beyond the horrifically pummelled region of central Philippines.)
Desperately-in-labour mom (stoically played by Genesis Rodriguez; the playful flashbacks providing welcome balance), Abigail, is being wheeled into Emergency trying to safely complete the five-week early delivery of her first and already “difficult” child.
Dad (it’s clearly up to Paul Walker to carry the film as Nolan, doing an excellent job with all he is asked to do) is understandably distraught even as he is pointedly left standing helplessly outside the OR suite.
Meanwhile, ominous music (Benjamin Wallfisch’s score effectively reinforces the shifting action and moods; the reference from the Prelude to Tristan and Isolde—intentional or not—given by the cello is an unexpected, curious touch) is quickly linked to a greater catastrophe-in-progress that will soon engulf the first-time parents: largely CNN footage of Hurricane Katrina on its relentless path of death, breech and destruction.
What else could possibly go wrong?
It gives nothing away to report that Abigail dies in labour and her fragile baby girl will require a ventilator for at least the first 48 hours of precious life if she is to fully join the human race when finally able to breathe on her own. With such a serious condition jeopardizing life from gasp 1, Nolan hearing the newborn baby cry out at the top of her delicate lungs will be the best sound ever.
Those who can’t already imagine how the rest of writer/director Eric Heisserer’s film unfolds—including the inevitable, if tear-inducing final shot—must not get out much.
And therein lies this production’s biggest problem: apart from one—literally—generated electric jolt, there is nary a surprise or “aha!” along the way.
Credibility is sorely stretched to the breaking point when the suddenly single dad is left completely on his own above the first-floor flooded hospital cranking a wobbly generator every two minutes or so to keep his daughter alive. No one comes to his aid despite the fact that both the doctor-in-charge (Yohance Myles) and ward nurse (Kerry Cahill) are well aware of the life-threatening dilemma even as they are safely evacuated. The latter does return, clutching a saline bag, but falters on the home stretch so as to fulfill one of three “visitor” subplots that further push the envelope for willfull suspension of disbelief to the bursting point.
Nonetheless, highlights include a superbly trained German shepherd “rescue dog” and a most welcome spot of comic relief as Nolan grapples with a diaper change for the first time in his life.
Not quite a disaster on its own, Hours does little to make its time vanish. JWR