Friday, March 28, 2008

AWAKE: Nightmare Under The Knife

AWAKE (suspense drama)

Cast: Hayden Christensen, Jessica Alba, Terrence Howard, Lena Olin and Christopher McDonald
Writer-Director: Joby Harold
Time: 85 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)
WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? This 'high concept' movie works on the scary conceit that some patients wake up halfway through surgery and experiences the horror of being cut up while they are helpless and conscious. However, while this concept is only worth a ER-subplot, British writer-director Joby Harold fashions out a plot twist about a conspiracy which helps to move the story forward a bit but does little to augment the main plot about anaesthetic awareness.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Wealthy corporate heir Clayton Beresford Jr (Hayden Christensen) is a man with everything, including a hot fiancee in the sultry Samantha (Jessica Alba) but sorely needs a heart transplant. When a donor heart is available, and his surgeon friend (Terence Howard) operates on him, Clay finds that he is fully awake but paralysed during the whole surgery. This allows him (and us) to discover what is really going on with his life and how the people he trusts are now betraying him.

HITS & MISSES: The first few minutes of the surgery sequence (shot partly at Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan) are excrutiating to watch - and may even haunt those who imagine themselves going under the knife. However, the movie soon takes an interesting but predictable turn into Hitchcock territory - and the mental anguish is compromised for a 'spirit-in-limbo' subplot. Sure, this melodramatic turn is fine as it moves the story along but plausibility is threatened.The best performance here belongs to Lena Olin as Clay's protective mother who would do anything to protect her son's life and legacy. Alba does a good job of providing eye candy to her role while Howard delivers a credible perf as the controversial doctor-buddy. Christopher McDonald plays the inept and inebriated anaesthesiologist who is stupid enough to carry a liquor flask in his pocket. Director Harold claims to have been inspired to write the film while suffering from a painful kidney stone.

THE LOWDOWN: Centring on a nightmare plot that can torture audiences, "Awake" has enough tension and twists to keep us awake throughout the movie. But don't count on blockbuster standards.


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