Amy (Naomi Watts) wakes up one morning and decides to take a day off from work, claiming it as personal leave. We understand that Amy is undergoing a massive change within her family due to a recent loss. She speaks with her son, who also doesn’t feel like doing anything other than staying in bed all day. Amy accepts his attitude giving him the option that if he wants to stay home too, fine, but naturally, she emphasises that going to school would be a much smarter choice for him. Shortly after speaking with her son, Amy decides to go for a jog in the woods to clear her head.
As Amy begins her run, she receives and makes various phone calls. While running and chatting to various people, she also notices multiple police cars driving past at a fast rate and soon begins to suspect that perhaps something terrible has occurred nearby. While Amy is standing at a peaceful lookout, she soon receives an alarming message on her phone advising that her hometown is now in lockdown due to a shooting incident at the local high school. Frantically, Amy makes various phone calls to find out more information and soon discovers that her son Noah decided to go to school while she went for a run and now might be a hostage. The clock is now ticking as Amy is determined to get to the town’s community centre next to the school and do everything she can to save her son. However, to get there, Amy must now travel by foot; her destination is four miles away, which will take at least an hour.
The Desperate Hour is best described as a drama with some intense moments of being a thriller. The film takes a little while to get underway, but once Amy receives word of a lockdown, the film delivers a solid amount of tension and urgency. I also enjoyed Amy attempting to do everything she could on her phone even though she wasn’t near the tragic event. While Amy spends a lot of her time around the woods, the film feels like most of its duration is spent at one location, with very few actors appearing throughout the film. I also admired that the film tackled a sensitive subject that is still relevant today: gun violence.
I felt the leading performance was generally great; however, while compelling given her situation, Amy as a character has moments that either seem unwise or unlikeable, particularly as the film reaches its climax. It’s no secret that a mother would do anything for their son in a dangerous situation, but sadly, for Amy, some choices in a real-life event would cause more harm. Various phone calls Amy makes to obtain information seem like luck or fluke rather than delivering surprises and suspense to the screen. The film also attempts to make big reveals, which I found on my first watch more predictable.
Visually, this film is hit-and-miss for me. I can only imagine the director’s challenges of having to film an actress running for a large portion of the film. Some shots are highly creative and pleasing to see, such as the use of drone footage as we see Amy talking on a phone while running on a path shown from above, and other times, the camera feels shakier as if the cameraman is also running, making the film feel real, but also a little uncomfortable to watch as viewers. The film’s musical score is fine, but I found it slightly familiar and eventually slightly repetitive as the film progressed further to its finale.
Overall, I can’t deny this film focuses on a touching topic while delivering some intense moments of drama and thriller. While the drama aspect is pleasing, the thrills and mystery within the story are rather predictable, and I can’t deny that I found the leading character to have unlikeable moments. Any real plot advancement generally comes from coincidences and luck rather than revealing a gripping story, which should have kept me on the edge of my seat instead of feeling dissatisfied as the credits rolled.