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Awake (2007)

R 84 minutes

Directed by Joby Harold
Written by Joby Harold

 · Hayden Christenson
 · Jessica Alba
 · Terrence Howard

Review by Sean Kernan

Anaesthetic awareness is something that happens to a small percentage of patients placed under surgical anaesthesia. The patient is thought to be made unconscious by the anaesthesia but for whatever reason they are not fully under. For some patients it can mean recalling conversations that took place between the surgeons for some it's a modest amount of pain.

For a small percentage of patients anaesthetic awareness means full awareness of everything from the surgical banter to the pain of surgical steel slicing skin and cutting bone. The new thriller Awake from writer-director Joby Harold takes this concept and builds a surprisingly captivating thriller around it.




Hayden Christenson,yes baby Vader himself, stars in Awake as Clay Beresford. A son of privelege, Clay has never wonted for anything. Now as an adult, Clay has one thing he desperately needs, a new heart. Clay is dying unless he can get a heart translplant. While his mother (Lena Olin) is maneuvering to get a world renowned heart surgeon (Arliss Howard) to perform Clay's surgery, he has become attached to his own doctor, Jack Harper (Terrence Howard).

Adding to the mother son tension is Clay's secret romance with mom's assistant Sam (Jessica Alba). Clay and Sam have been sneaking around together for months, difficult because mama's boy Clay still lives at home and works for mom's company. When his surgery day finally arrives Clay must tell mom that not only have he and Sam been sneaking around, they married in the middle of the night.

Once the surgery is under way the real twists and turns begin. A last minute replacement anasthesiologist (Christopher McDonald) fails to put Clay completely under. This leaves him fully awake but unable to move or speak as the surgeons begin there work.

Written and directed by Joby Harold, Awake has more twists and turns than you might expect from such a unique and seemingly constrictive plot. The movie has taken nearly two years to get to the screen. Harold and company finished filming in late 2005 but Harold could not find a final cut that he was happy with. Nearly two years later he has found just the right combination of ludicrous melodrama and edge of your seat excitement.

There is a definite B-movie quality to every thing about Awake. This aesthetic however, really works for this slightly goofy material. The story involves a guy wandering around outside his body trying to get someone to help him and then taking an inner journey through his memories to figure out how he got there. There is an even more goofball moment late in the film that works on it's own logic but I won't reveal it here.




So much of Awake has a B-movie thrill from the modest nudity (Side Boob) of Jessica Alba to Hayden Christenson's weird take on existential angst. His harried inner voice as he, paralyzed by anasthetic listens intently to his surgeons is both goofy and engaging. Just the right amount of disbelief and earnest horror mingle in his breathless attempts to move, shout or just squeeze out a tear.

Jessica Alba makes for terrific eye candy but the twists and turns of this plot call for a different actress. To reveal more might jeopardize some of the unique twists and turns of this off the wall but more often engaging little thriller. Without giving to much away, someone like Elisha Cuthbert or Erika Christensen would likely have been more appropriate for the role. For one thing, their star power would not completely overwhelm the already weak draw of Hayden Christenson, as Ms. Alba most certainly does.

Perfect for her role however is Lena Olin. As Clay's shifty, scheming mother Olin is snaky and sexy. Appearing to be the villain of the piece, Olin brings unique shifts in tone and twists you will not see coming. She threatens to bring some civility and talent to this B-movie enterprise. Thankfully, respectability is out the window by the time mommy brings the films biggest and most laughable twist. Yes, it's goofy as all get out, but it works in the logic of this ludicrous universe.



Writer-Director Joby Harold smartly attacks this B-movie material by creating his own unique universe where the ill-logic of the films many twists and turns can exist in their own believable way. There is no attempt to make these situations realistic, the film flows with the ludicrous and outlandish and creates a way for those things to exist and be quite gripping.

Awake is far from great 'cinema' but for cheap, goofball melodrama, existential angst and a tapping of real human fears (awake on an operating table! Yikes!) this is a crafty and fun little flick, more than worthy of a turn in your DVD player.

787 Words Published: 29 December 2007

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