METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER / THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY (2007)

Director: Joby Harold

Starring: Hayden Christensen, Jessica Alba, Terrence Howard, Lena Olin

21 million people are put under anaesthesia, 1 in 700 remain awake. This is called amnesia awareness, and is the chilling statistic to open the movie – and pretty much gives you the plot.

 

A medical thriller, Awake is a sharp, snappy production, not bloated with unnecessary backstories or exposition, it’s pretty clear as to what’s happening throughout the film, until the big twist is revealed, and a very good twist it is too. I didn’t see it coming, and really through the first acts of the movie, there isn’t any great indication of it – except for the motherly concern. I put this down simply to a combination of decent writing and solid performances. There are business machinations rumbling throughout (Clay is a millionaire entrepreneur following in his father’s footsteps) which help lend an underlying threat alongside the familial issues and the small matter of HEART SURGERY.

Hayden Christensen as Clay has enough about him to make us see him as a good guy in the movie – he loves his mother, devoted to his fiancée and is fiercely loyal to his friends, all whilst being stinking rich. It is a good portrayal which becomes very good once the movie kicks into life and the operation events unfold. Though primarily voiceover work, it is good voiceover work which helps suck you into the isolated terror of what is happening. A solid performance in the lead role. Plus, there's another Darth in a bath moment (a la American Heist).

Jessica Alba steps out of her usual roles and takes on a more substantial part for the movie, and for the most part is pretty good. Beginning as the loving fiancée and twisting and turning throughout, she delivers a convincing performance of the worried partner and as the girl who just wants to settle down. Her scenes with Lena Olin are well conveyed and there is a pleasant connection with her and Christensen. Lena Olin and Terrence Howard are reliable as they should be in there roles and provide no surprises with their dependability. Interestingly, Olin has Swedish descendance as does Christensen, her on screen son.

The medical facts stated at the movies beginning are apparently incorrect (it is more like 1 in 14,500 patients that are awake) but the fact that anyone could be awake during surgery is terrifying! Once the events of surgery began to unfold, and you realise the anaesthetic has not kicked in, I found myself gripped as to what would happen, as the urgency and panic of the situation set in. The idea of anaesthesia awareness is a brilliant plot device, and will probably scare a few people away from the operating table (like Jaws did for the ocean?) From then on, the movie takes on a pseudo-Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind direction, though not delivered quite as successfully as that movie.

A gripping thriller, with a good twist and a fantastic medical plot device, Awake is a good watch and succeeds where it set out to – to provide an uneasy feeling as the knives go in and the procedure begins…

 

Just need to cancel any future operations now…

September 1st 2016

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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