Review: ‘The Desperate Hour’ – Terror without tact
The Desperate Hour is a tense affair from start to finish. As the movie opens, Naomi Watts’ Amy coveys a distinct uneasiness. The weight of the world rests uncomfortably on her shoulders, giving her whole household a heavy feeling. It’s almost one year since the death of her husband, and her family is yet to recover completely. She goes for a run to clear her head, but a nightmare comes to life as she does. A shooting has occurred at her son’s high school.
The Desperate Hour is an exercise in imagination. The film restricts the experience to that of its main character. You stay by her side as she’s cut off from the rest of the world, only getting morsels of information from her trusty smartphone. Each call is nerve-racking, yet the tension only goes so far. To keep things going, the movie creates instances that can’t help but feel manufactured. As if the experience of a school shooting isn’t scary enough.
It’s not enough to be miles away with no means of transportation; Amy must also trip on a nearby exposed root, nearly injuring her ankle. The movie never seems satisfied with the drama of its situation, always pushing its protagonist through the anxiety wringer. It’s one thing for a thriller to up the ante, but when it’s inorganic as The Desperate Hour, it starts to feel, well, desperate.
While that makes for a subpar thriller, The Desperate Hour does deliver on its single character focus. Naomi Watts is able to carry the movie on her own with only the occasional voice on her phone to share the load. On top of that, the juxtaposition of picturesque woodlands against the terror of the tragedy makes the movie’s point. Even the most perfect days can end tragically.
Watts may be giving the role her all, but there’s a certain point where the movie throws it away. Believe it or not, Amy goes from sympathetic to appalling by the time the third act comes around. The film seemed to be about a terrible event that could happen to anyone. Yet, there’s a sense of entitlement to her character that makes her unrelatable, betraying the movie’s conceit.
The Desperate Hour could have been a great film highlighting the depths of an experience that should never befall a person, but its failings keep it from reaching such lofty heights and is more akin to a high-quality Lifetime movie.
Rating: Catch It On Cable
Damian Levy is a film critic and podcaster for Damian Michael Movies.