• Nate Adams

'The Desperate Hour' review: School shooting thriller is airless and misguided


Courtesy of Vertical Entertainment

 

A product of pandemic filmmaking (single location, one person on the run etc.) Phillip Noyce’s “The Desperate Hour” wants to be an urgent statement on the epidemic of school shootings but comes across as airless and completely misguided. Naomi Watts is in the driver’s seat of this barebones, white-knuckle thriller that puts a mother in a race against the clock to save her son, who’s trapped inside his high school with a mentally unstable shooter. Convoluted and borderline barbaric in its overall presentation, “The Desperate Hour” feels, ironically, like its own act of desperation. Striving for relevancy amid a crowded field of similar, much better, films on the matter (if you haven’t and feel up to it, check out “The Fallout” on HBO Max).


Written by Chris Sparling, who seems to specialize in one-man or one-woman shows having written the Ryan Reynolds solo outing “Buried,” “The Desperate Hour” finds Amy Carr (Watts) caught in the middle of a tragedy. Grieving the loss of her husband who died a year prior, Amy tries helping her two children find a sense of normalcy. Each morning she goes for a run deep in the woods near their home and unplugs from the digital stratosphere to reset and unwind. But an alert on her phone confirms the worst: There’s been a shooting at her son’s school and miles away from civilization (or a running Uber), Amy goes full mama bear and, oddly enough, begins hopping on the phone and pestering 911 operators and detectives who wouldn’t be able to help anyway or, you know, are already aware of what’s going on. .


Clocking 84 measly minutes, “The Desperate Hour” consists of Watts yelling on the phone for information about the whereabouts of her kid. Noyce doesn’t direct with any sense of engagement, unlike the Steven Knight single location drama “Locke” starring Tom Hardy which had audiences hooked, instead keeping the atmosphere pedestrian as the movie weaves through the drama with minimal results. This leads to one of the most bonkers conclusions in terms of sheer absurdity of recent memory where Watts’s character, for reasons I can’t wrap my head around, becomes a hostage negotiator and is tasked with de-escalating the situation.


There’s also a shoddily put together, last minute gasp where “The Desperate Hour” becomes a PSA on school shootings and though its intentions are good, it doesn’t leave an impact other than unintentional laughter. Much like the rest of the movie.


Grade: D-


THE DESPERATE HOUR is now playing in theaters and available on demand.