[Screen It]

"AWAKE"
(2007) (Hayden Christensen, Jessica Alba) (R)

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QUICK TAKE:
Suspense/Thriller: A wealthy young man learns of others' diabolical plans when his anesthesia leaves him conscious but otherwise paralyzed during his heart transplant surgery.
PLOT:
Clay Beresford (HAYDEN CHRISTENSEN) is a young man who's successfully running his late father's business, not that his mother, Lilith (LENA OLIN), doesn't influence how things operate. Despite his success and wealth, for instance, he's afraid to tell her that he's secretly engaged to her personal assistant, Sam Lockwood (JESSICA ALBA). And while he wants his friend, Dr. Jack Harper (TERRENCE HOWARD), to perform his heart transplant whenever a donor organ is available, Lilith insists that he use a more renowned surgeon, such as Dr. Jonathan Neyer (ARLISS HOWARD), especially since he isn't facing various malpractice suits like Jack is.

Nevertheless, on the night that Clay and Sam elope, they get the call that a heart is ready for him. Despite his mother's demands, Clay chooses to go with Jack rather than Dr. Neyer. With the aid of his team -- consisting of Dr. Puttnam (FISHER STEVENS), Penny Carver (GEORGINA CHAPMAN) and unexpected replacement anesthesiologist Larry Lupin (CHRISTOPHER McDONALD) -- Jack begins the procedure. The only thing is, Clay isn't put completely under. Although he's paralyzed and can't outwardly communicate, he's fully aware of what's going on, including still possessing the sensation of pain, as well as the ability to hear what the others are saying.

As he tries to contend with the pain of going through the transplant, Clay ends up having an out of body experience where he soon learns of diabolical plans involving him and his future. From that point on, he does what he can to try to get himself to wake up or convince others that something is going terribly wrong.

OUR TAKE: 2.5 out of 10
Our new reviewing policy for films that aren't shown in advance to critics is that we'll only provide a paragraph or two about the film's artistic merits or, more accurately, lack thereof. After all, life is too short to spend any more effort than that on a movie that even the releasing studio knows isn't any good (which is why they hid it from reviewers before its release).

Despite an intriguing (not to mention fairly troubling and squirm-inducing) premise about being conscious yet fully paralyzed during surgery, first-time writer/director Joby Harold can't do anything with the material.

Trapped inside his, well, own trappings, the filmmaker is forced to get creative with the material, and thus has the protagonist have an out of body experience that thus frees the patient from just lying there on the table, chest open for all to see his inner-workings.

Things just get more preposterous from there, with character revelations piling up into silliness, rather than intended suspense or shock. Yawn, I could barely stay wide-eyed and bushy-tailed as things progressively unfolded into nothing but a cinematic mess Without a heart of its own to make us care, this film is in serious need of a script transplant - stat. "Awake" rates as a 2.5 out of 10.




Reviewed November 30, 2007 / Posted November 30, 2007


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