It's tempting to watch this film and wonder what could have been. Paul Walker, who died last month in a car crash, ventures as far away as he can from his Fast & Furious roles for this film that is about a father trying desperately to keep his newly born daughter alive, stranded alone in a hospital as Hurricane Katrina strikes.
Walker also produced this film, while it's the debut directorial venture of Heisserer (the screenplay writer of films such as Nightmare on Elm Street and The Final Destination 5). They could have been pardoned for feeling the need to prove something. But creditably, they don't, letting the events speak for themselves.
Nolan (Walker) has walked into a New Orleans hospital with his wife in premature labour at 2 am just as Hurricane Katrina is gathering full strength. Within five hours, his wife has died and his child has been kept in a ventilator, needing support to breathe. Within the next few, the hospital has been evacuated but for those that can't be moved. A few more hours and Nolan realises he is practically the only one left in the hospital with his child. The power goes, so does the back-up, and as the battery starts running out, Nolan manages to discover an old one that needs winding every two minutes or so.
He will spend more than 42 hours in that situation, without power, cranking up the battery every two minutes, filling up his daughter's saline drip, and somehow managing to sustain himself on dwindling supplies and creeping weakness. Any options he hunts for also have to be structured around that two-minute window, before he has to be at his daughter's bedside.
Heisserer, who also wrote Hours, keeps the film engrossing despite the confines of the story, putting Nolan in varied risks. The fact that we can't get the picture of that helpless baby wrapped in just a towel and a cap out of our heads helps. The lives of the two are intrinsically linked, and the film knows that and plays on it well.
What's happening outside is conveyed through TV broadcasts, though obviously it isn't Nolan who is watching the telecast. Nolan's backstory is told through flashbacks to the life he and his loving wife shared. While the breaks might be considered welcome, these surprisingly end up becoming tiresome as Rodriguez doesn't really match up to the intensity of the rest of the film.
In fact, Hours would be a taut, better film if it tightened these parts as well as didn't allow itself the indulgence of a dog and snipers crawling hospital corridors.