The chilling thought of being awake but paralysed through a major operation, known as “Anaesthetic Awareness”, is used to disappointing effect when powerful business man Clay Beresford (Hayden Christensen) undergoes a heart transplant. Just married against his mother’s wishes to her beautiful assistant Sam (Jessica Alba), he has also already angered her by choosing to trust short-term surgeon friend Dr. Jack Harper (Terrance Howard) rather than a leadering expert on the proceedure. However, as he lays on the operating table, things take a turn towards the distrurbing when the anaesthetic puts him in a state where he cannot move or talk, but hears and feels everything. It’s a high concept thriller which hampers itself by ignoring the possibilities of an inventive direction by going with an unsurprising twist.
Awake could easily have been the inspiration for a more dramatic film in the vein of director Michel Gondry, entitled Eternal Thunderstorm of the Terrorised Mind perhaps, a Japanese-influenced trauma horror movie. Instead, writer/director Joby Harold uses the state of anaesthetic awareness in a less imaginative way. After an initial burst of uncomfortable viewing when Clay realises he can hear the surgeons and then feel their incisions — not a film to watch if you are about to undergo surgey — Awake takes a turn to tell the rest of the story, but the net result is very plain. Somehow Clay manages to block out the pain after a few internal screams and then achieves an out-of-body state enabling him to slowly discover things aren’t quite what he thought they were. To say anymore would ruin the only elements that will keep you in your seat for the measley 84 minutes this is stretched out over.
Christensen’s romance skills haven’t improved since his laughable attempts in Star Wars.
When on the surgical table Christensen’s voiceover is as bland and stilted as his acting. This man’s screams could bore you to sleep. His romance skills haven’t improved since his laughable attempts in Star Wars, but then Jessica Alba continues in her bid to star in forgetable films generally requiring her to look good and/or cry for the camera: what she says is rarely important. Terrance Howard puts in the most effort and as a result is the most interesting lead, however Harold barely scratches the surface of his character with a shady past. Going from gooey-eyed romance to an episode of a standard crime solving television series via a few detailed scenes of a man’s chest being cut open is probably not the most obvious trajectory for a major movie — someone in Hollywood obviously thought it would be an easy sell on the back of its novel concept. It sounds like an easy sell, but the shortcomings are all too apparent from the opening pitch, and even a salesman would struggle to gloss over the potential shortcomins you might wonder about. Awake is in its own state of anaesthetic awareness, one where the story trundles on unable to stop it’s own descent into mediocrity.