Plot: Clay Beresford (Hayden Christensen) - heir to a multi million dollar empire, finds himself awake during heart surgery due to a phenomenon called anesthetic awareness. Hes unable to communicate, but is fully conscious throughout the excruciatingly painful surgery. However, he soon realizes that this is the least of his worries, as there are forces at work which aim to make sure he does not live though the operation.
Review: I knew that AWAKE was going to be a disaster the second I got the press kit from the studio. How did I know this?
Simple- the running time of the film was listed as seventy eight minutes. For a big studio film, anything under eighty five minutes is extremely rare. Generally, the bare minimum is eighty two- this is usually a sign that the film has been butchered in the editing room.
Even the Screen Actors guild- in a letter advising low budget filmmakers, defines a feature film as running a minimum of eighty minutes. Sometimes you might get an animated feature running a bit shorter that this- but even this is rare if the film is intended for a theatrical release.
However- once the film ended, I was exceedingly grateful for the short running time, as I dont know if I could have endured another couple of minutes. Running time aside- AWAKE suffers from many problems. Chief among these, is the leading performance by Hayden Christensen.
Ive never really been a fan of his. Whatever he was doing in the STAR WARS prequels, it certainly wasnt acting. I thought that maybe he was finally coming around as an actor when I saw SHATTERED GLASS- as I thought he gave an above average performance. These hopes were dashed when I saw FACTORY GIRL last year, and had to sit through his awful performance as a character supposedly based on Bob Dylan.
Probably the biggest problem with him in the film is that hes supposed to be playing a guy in dire need of a heart transplant. Yet our introduction to his character features him submerging himself in bath water, trying to see how long he can hold his breath. If you have a weak heart- doing this is almost suicidal, not to mention completely insane. In another scene- he pulls out a cigarette. A cigarette! Anyone watching this film familiar with heart disease knows that this is a huge no-no- and this shows that the filmmakers have nothing but contempt for the audience.
Besides Christensen we get Jessica Alba, as his Clay's mysterious new bride. As usual Alba is gorgeous, but is given little to do until the second half of the film, where we learn something about the character that is a tad unconvincing. The normally reliable Terrence Howard does well with his weak role as Clay's doctor friend, but its obvious that this is a paycheck movie and nothing else.
The best way I can describe this film is as a (barely) feature length episode of HOUSE- and a bad episode at that. Writer- driector Joby Harrold has not impressed this viewer with his feature debut. According to the press kit he got the idea for this film while passing a kidney stone. For the sake of audiences everywhere- I hope he never has to go through this ordeal again. Who knows what he might come up with next time!
As for the whole idea of anesthetic awareness, Im afraid it actually does exist. Around 30,000 patients experience this each year to varying degrees. Im sure the process is extremely traumatic, and I would not recommend this film to anyone about to undergo surgery. That said- I wouldnt recommend this film to anyone- so there you go.
My Grade: A big fat 0/10
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