Reviewed by Nomad
Starring Hayden Christensen, Jessica Alba, Terrence Howard, Lena Olin
Directed by Joby Harold
Distributed by Genius Products
Some movies are packed to the gills with so much action, it seems all you’d have to do is plug in two likable actors with a bit of chemistry and set them running at breakneck speed. Other movies are more cerebral and what we’d call pretty (American for indie movie fodder), requiring actors capable of grabbing an audience with a glance and hanging onto them throughout the film. The tension builds and we feel empathy for our hero, anger toward their enemies and pain with the loss of tertiary characters we’ve grown fond of. You are hooked in and as the credits roll, you feel a sort of accomplishment in having shared the experience.
Awake is one such tale, centering around the life of Clay Beresford (Christensen), a young rich power player, mommas boy and hopeless romantic. It seems Clay’s heart has irregularities and at any time, he could drop. This could be why his mother (still drop dead sexy Olin) keeps such a tight grip on him, but it is nothing beyond what any loving, protective mother would exude. Then we have Sam (Alba), Mom’s assistant and secret lover to Clay and Dr. Jack Harper (Howard), Clay’s doctor, of course. These characters are thrown at you fairly quickly and with a sleepy, at-ease sort of pace. No rushing here. Suddenly, in the space of 10 minutes, Clay reveals his love for Sam, marries her and then has his ticker give out. Flash forward to the hospital where teachers at Hogwart’s school of medicine, Dr. Lupin and Carver of course (yes her name is really carver!!! So it was either medicine or serial killing for her) lay in wait along side a twitchy Fisher Stevens.
HERE is where the horror comes in. As Clay goes under the anesthesia, he realizes that he is still awake even though he can’t move or speak. What’s worse, he can feel the blade as it slides into his chest. As we listen to Christensen’s monotone mugging of dealing with the pain and taking his mind elsewhere, we begin to see a plot to kill Clay revealing itself in the waking world. To tell you who is the evil fiend and who their accomplices are would give away the meat of it, but suffice to say, you will not care. As I said before, a movie as quiet as this has two options. One is to be wildly stylized like, say, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, where Clay has to find a way through the pain induced dementia in his head to hold onto the identities of his would be murderers and stay alive long enough to reveal them. The other would be to hire top notch actors to grab you by the throat and drag you along for the ride. Lack of chemistry on all points could be to blame, but never the less, only Olin delivers the performance required. Sadly, she can not carry this film alone and the title Awake becomes ironic as we nod off in boredom.
Jarred to my senses by music on the menu screen, I’m faced with the second horror of Awake. EXTRAS!! Commentary by writer/wirector Joby Harold is probably the one enjoyable piece of film for me, but having watched it days after screening the film, I can say it wasn’t anything I wanted to experience after sitting through the film the first time. Harold is a first time director and his enthusiasm for the material shows through and dare I say, is more infectious than his main characters.
You are allowed Harold commentary on the 7 deleted scenes as well. The scenes don’t bring anything extra to the movie and are no more exciting than what made it in, so hearing why they were cut doesn’t do anything for me. The high point would be the third scene in which Olin delivers what is probably her only real villain scene, allowed to throw in some great emotional range. True it isn’t really needed in the film, but it is great to watch a quality actress work a scene. The next deleted scene provides the only moment of humor in the film, again, not needed to tell a story but a shame that one laugh is killed. The last scene plays as sort of a It’s a Wonderful Life flashback with present day incarnations of characters looking on. While it reveals a bit more of Clay’s back story which is salted through out the film, the event does nothing more than attempt a miss-direct, something that often comes off forced and is a major pet peeve of mine. As a famous director turned Robot Chicken star would say … WHAT A TWIST!!
Under The Knife and Behind the Camera: The Making of Awake is your basic fluff piece behind the scenes bit where everyone on set loves everyone else…the actors were great…the director was incredible…the PA’s were fantastic at bringing coffee, etc etc. If you loved the film and/or are in love with Alba and/or Christensen, you have to sit through all 13 minutes of it. A small price to pay to ogle your idols one more time.
Storyboard to Film Comparison is a tedious exercise in, what would appear to be a company struggling to give you another extra. On a split screen, we watch a scene from the film in one half with the story board sitting in the other. I’ve seen this done with crew members doing the voices of animated characters along with board panels, creating a fun feature, but this delivery just seemed slapped together and boring. Maybe I’m just not a hardcore enough film geek to get it? Lastly, we have the theatrical trailer, so one might relive the joy of first hearing about Awake, back before they knew better.
2 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5
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