Paul Walker's final - and finest - Hours
Hours Blu-ray Review
It’s understandable that the work of a young actor, cut down in his prime, is likely to be reappraised perhaps with more forgiving eyes than had he lived on to lesser or greater later results.Paul Walker, at best, made for an affable lead in some pretty throwaway movies; his hits – the Fast & Furious series – probably also giving him his best work, as he aged and matured with a character that started off vacuous, cheesy and clichéd and, frankly, could only get better from there.
Now, with the unfinished footage from his seventh Fast & Furious film being cut and edited to give his character some kind of fitting closure, his penultimate complete film is released; an under-the-radar, low budget indie production with no glitz or glamour; no big names or big promotion.
A simple premise, a simple plot, and one man to carry the entire production – Paul Walker.
And, you know what, he does a stand-up job.
The story is deceptively simple: a young husband brings his pregnant wife into hospital on the eve of Hurricane Katrina’s first assault, and is left alone in the soon-abandoned building to keep his prematurely-born baby’s ventilator going for the 48 hours required until she can breathe on her own. It’s a true test of stamina, as this man weathers floods, power outages, food and water shortages, battery failure, medication shortages, and even armed looters, all to try and keep his baby alive.
This may not be an acting masterclass, but it is easily Walker’s finest hour, rising to the material which calls upon him to dig deep and come up with the goods. Similarly, whilst Hours itself isn’t exactly a masterpiece either, it provides a satisfying, surprisingly tense – and surprisingly realistic – little one-man’s-perspective look at the effect of Hurricane Katrina, and the strength and determination required to survive.
Don’t be put off by the relative lack of promotion, this, one of Walker’s final features, may well also be his finest hour. Recommended.
Hours Blu-ray Picture QualityHours comes to Region B-locked UK Blu-ray complete with a largely very good 1080p High Definition video presentation in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.78:1 widescreen. I say ‘largely very good’ because there are inherent limitations to this presentation, but they are almost all as a result of a considerably limited budget and relative lack of finesse – the latter lending itself quite well towards the intended stylistic tone of the piece. Detail is generally very impressive indeed, allowing for some excellent close-up shots, particularly when tracking the increasingly haggard look of the increasingly underslept protagonist, but also when observing the finer touches associated with the ruined setting and dominant hospital set.
This is a very good presentation, just not a very pretty film.
The colour scheme is further aimed distinctly towards providing a dour look in reflection of the subject and Katrina-overshadowed setting, leaving tones stripped of vibrancy, but only as was intended. This is moody and gloomy, with only a series of intentionally colourful – in a rose-tinted kind of sepia-sunshine way – flashbacks striking out from the grey-blue-dominated affair. Black levels are reasonably strong but softness does impinge on the proceedings. Occasionally this is another stylistic choice – the edges around some shots take on a softer look, particularly when either emphasising the tiredness of the protagonist, or emphasising the fact that he is running on memories, but it does carry through to some other, less overtly intentional, sequences. Still, largely devoid of digital anomalies – there’s no glaring edge enhancement, invasive DNR application or significant banding and blocking to note – this is a very good presentation, just not a very pretty film.
Hours Blu-ray Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is slightly less impressive, taking a distinct back-seat to the proceedings, again reflecting perhaps the budget afforded the production. Where the wind and storm picks up, glass shatters and the building trembles under the force, bringing your living room with it, through adept use of the surrounds and LFE channel.
Far from bad, this is also far from reference material, although you would likely not expect much better for this kind of feature.
The defining moments, however, are few and far between, and the quieter sequences – of which there are plenty – don’t quite have the kind of precision that would push this anywhere in the vicinity of demo territory. The score, however throwaway, only helps heighten the tension, giving the surrounds yet more to do, but this is still largely a front-dominated affair, with dialogue ruling the day, and the rest coming second place.
Hours Blu-ray ExtrasNothing in terms of extras. No surprise, really, but they could have cobbled together something as a tribute to Walker at least.
Is Hours Blu-ray Worth BuyingHours may not be a masterpiece, and Walker’s performance therein isn’t exactly a master class in acting, but it’s easily his best work; his finest hour, and the high concept premise is carried through to fruition in a solid and highly serviceable drama/thriller.
On Region B-locked UK Blu-ray, Hours doesn’t exactly get a pretty presentation, but it’s not exactly a pretty film, and the video and audio are more than adequate. A distinct lack of extras disappoints, but should not put of those interested from checking out what might be the late young actor’s finest work.
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