Hours

The meet cute: Paul Walker and Genesis Rodriguez in Hours

 

A movie for every day of the year – a good one

 

 

29 August

 

Hurricane Katrina, 2005

On this day in 2005, Hurricane Katrina touched down for the second time in Louisiana, USA.

The seventh most intense Atlantic hurricane ever recorded up to that point (three of the other six were also from the 2005 hurricane season), it was the costliest natural disaster the country has ever had to bear.

The hurricane had formed to the south east of the Bahamas on 23 August 2005, at which point it was termed a tropical depression. By the next morning it had developed into a tropical storm, and was given the name Katrina. As it moved towards Florida it gained in intensity, becoming a hurricane just two hours before it arrived between Hallandale Beach and Aventura.

It weakened over land, but once it was back over the Gulf of Mexico it picked up strength, growing from a category 3 to category 5 in nine hours. This unusually rapid speed of development was down to the unusually warm waters in the Gulf at the time.

At its peak, on 28 August, Hurricane Katrina was producing sustained wind speeds of 175mph (280kmh).

Its second touchdown was its most destructive. In all it killed 1,833 people. Many of the deaths happened in New Orleans, Louisiana, where the levee system designed to keep flood water away from the city failed, resulting in around 80% of the city flooding.

 

 

 

Hours (2013, dir: Eric Heisserer)

The saddest thing about Hours is that it came out just after its star, Paul Walker, had died. Sad because he’s very good in it, a revelation after becoming an increasing irrelevance in the Fast and Furious films, especially once Dwayne Johnson had arrived, a more obvious opposite number to Vin Diesel, giving Walker little to do except mutter “what he said” now and again.

Hours shows a between-projects slightly paunchy Walker trying to regain control of his career, in a small film that probably cost buttons to make and which requires him to actually act. He pulls it off. And in case you think this is fanboy talk, I never really rated him.

So, the plot: Walker plays a guy in New Orleans who loses his wife in childbirth. Then Katrina hits, the hospital’s power goes out and everyone is evacuated. Except for Walker and his new premature child, too delicate to move and inside a respirator with its own power source.

Except that the power source goes out and the respirator is now on a battery backup. Then that starts to malfunction. And the baby’s drip runs out. And so on.

Jeopardy, in other words, one new challenge after another for the man to solve or else his baby dies. This is what they call “stakes”, I believe, and Walker plays it well and for real. And largely in semi-darkness. Though we have seen him in the full light of day – in flashback scenes that show him and the baby’s mother meet-cuting, courting, falling in love, and so on. They’re lovely scenes, between Walker and Genesis Rodriguez, and if the stories are true that they were an item, it’s easy to believe (and makes the film even more poignant).

A couple of doctors (until they leave), Genesis Rodriguez and enough people to make up a dinner party for one scene, a couple of bad guys who arrive later on to add more jeopardy when Walker’s travails with machinery, power supply and medication are threatening to yield diminished returns, there really isn’t a very big cast for this film. And the set – a couple of rooms and an empty corridor. Lighting – barely.

Which means that the onus falls on Walker, who rises to the challenge, occasionally being a bit actorly, it’s true, but behaving for the most part as you’d expect a man in the situation to do – taking on responsibility, trying to keep panic at bay.

Eric Heisserer’s script does something similar, getting a bit Hollywood-melodramatic here and there, particularly at the end (no spoilers) which goes all out for a big finish, which it has entirely earned. But on the whole it’s a clever and tight piece of work that does an awful lot with very little – a high concept piece, in fact.

Hours isn’t a big film, but it is a good one. And that, at the end of the day (particularly at the end of the day) is really all you want.

 

 

Why Watch?

 

  • One of Paul Walker’s best (and last) films
  • A fine directing debut by Eric Heisserer
  • A screenplay that builds jeopardy expertly
  • Jaron Presant’s low-key cinematography

 

© Steve Morrissey 2014

 

 

Hours – Watch it now at Amazon

I am an Amazon affiliate

 

 

 

Fast & Furious 6

Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel in Fast and Furious 6

 

A movie for every day of the year – a good one

 

 

5 February

 

 

John Boyd Dunlop born, 1840

John Boyd Dunlop, Scottish inventor and accidental businessman, was born on this day in 1840. After studying to be a veterinarian at Edinburgh University, he moved to Ireland and set up practice with his brother, in Downpatrick. His most famous invention was the pneumatic tyre, which he developed in 1887 as a way of making his son’s tricycle roll easier over the hard ground of his back yard. Dunlop was immediately struck not just by how much smoother the ride was, but by how much more easily the wheel rolled with a pneumatic tyre on it than just on the metal rim alone. He was on to something and had soon made more tyres for bicycles, which were then experiencing a boom. He patented his idea on 7 December 1888. The pneumatic tyre really took off after Willie Hume, a Belfast cyclist, won a string of races using Dunlop’s tyres. The man himself never made much money from his patent, having assigned it to his business partner, William Du Cros, in return for shares in the company, the Pneumatic Tyre and Booth’s Cycle Agency Company Limited. This turned out to have been a stroke of blind luck, because in 1890 the company was informed that the tyre had already been patented, in 1845, by Robert William Thomson, another Scottish inventor, because though it prospered, it was thanks to business acumen rather than possession of a killer patent.

 

 

 

Fast & Furious 6 (2013, dir: Justin Lin)

Having worked all the permutations to exhaustion, F&F 6 tried also to go by the name Furious 6, but wiser heads decided that that might confuse matters and so a good old fashioned Fast & Furious 6 it has ended up being. To confound expectations, it pretty much abandons the whole street-racing notion that the F&F franchise has been built on and instead use the F&F gang – Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris – as a sort of grand Mission Impossible outfit with cars. Actually, that’s a tendency that had been growing since director Justin Lin took over the enterprises in F&F 3. This time around the team are called out of hiding/retirement/fat farm (you know who you are) by Luke Hobbs (the increasingly key Dwayne Johnson) to nobble a villain (Luke Evans) whose MO is fast cars and faster assaults on military and/or bullion installations. Meanwhile Michelle Rodriguez has banged her head and is playing for the other team – no, you can have that one for free – Jordana Brewster is in “good wife at home” mode, leaving the rest of the old team and new girl, mixed martial arts woman Gina Carano, to get on with it. The dialogue scenes can be ignored – Johnson tells the gang something, then Diesel repeats it for those in the audience who sniff gas for fun, then Walker does a “what he said” number, followed by Tyrese and Ludacris offering a comic reinterpretation, while Sung Kang looks effortlessly cool and the girls stand around chewing their cheeks. This does not matter, because the key reason for watching the film is not to laugh at the dialogue but to enjoy the stunts. And on the evidence here – the race around tourist London after Evans in a Formula 1 tank, the big finish in which the gang chase a gigantic cargo plane down a runway – Lin has quietly become the best action director in Hollywood. In fact this last sequence is well worth watching just on its own. Lin shows us a feat of really extraordinary action choreography, during which, after almost an entire film’s worth of standing around and pouting like the model he used to be, Tyrese Gibson gets to do something which I bet he rewatches in slo-mo at home. And then Lin tops it with the sequence involving cars being connected to a taxi-ing cargo plane by cables, which like the best action stunts manages to be ridiculous and awesome at the same time.

 

 

Why Watch?

 

  • Director Justin Lin, king of action
  • Gina Carano and Sung Kang, both effortlessly cool
  • A car-chase stunt in Piccadilly Circus – unusual
  • The best film of the series

 

© Steve Morrissey 2014

 

 

Fast & Furious 6 – at Amazon