Andy Bockelman: ‘Awake’ not quite a snoozer, but close to it
December 15, 2007
The new thriller “Awake” may not put viewers to sleep, but they will certainly be stifling a few yawns.
Clay Beresford (Hayden Christensen) is a juggernaut in his prestigious career of high finance.
His effectiveness as a businessman is even more impressive because of his young age. Having such a nerve-wracking job does not help his already weak heart. Keeping his girlfriend Sam (Jessica Alba) a secret from his possessive mother (Lena Olin) is none too healthy either.
When a new heart that matches his blood type comes through, it seems Clay’s troubles are about to be lessened. However, he experiences something bizarre while on the operating table; the anesthesia given to him does not take full effect, leaving him fully cognizant of his surgery. As he lies paralyzed in his own body, he begins hearing things that lead him to reevaluate some of his choices.
Christensen will never escape the ire of “Star Wars” fans for his portrayal of Anakin Skywalker. Oddly enough, Clay bears some resemblance to the sci-fi anti-hero, and the actor predictably gives him the same wooden treatment. Alba is not well-suited for her role either; there is a necessary amount of dramatic skill needed for the character of Sam, and she does not come close to fulfilling this requirement. Terrence Howard is better as Dr. Jack Harper, the head surgeon for Clay’s operation. Harper’s history of malpractice lawsuits and his friendly relationship with Clay both play importantly into the story. Olin outdoes the rest of the cast as Clay’s mother, Lilith, whose devotion to her son is simultaneously remarkable and somewhat unsettling.
With a disclaimer at the beginning of the movie which outlines the statistics of the oddity of anesthetic awareness, it would seem that first-time writer/director Joby Harold was concerned with keeping to the facts. If that were the case, he would not have written in tripe such as Clay’s nonsensical out-of-body experience. To his credit, the story as a whole does mesh together quite well. In fact, it fits too well. There is no subtlety involved in any of the dialogue, and like the bulk of so many recent suspense movies, the “surprise” involved is anything but. The exposition and denouement are so sloppily handled that anyone who is familiar with decent storytelling will feel like they are the ones lying on a table with an open chest cavity.
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“Awake” may not be very enlightening in either surgical or screenwriting terms, but at least with its short running time, it will all be over soon.