Awake (DVD)

It's ironic that a film titled Awake leaves a majority of its audience asleep. This film is an excruciatingly boring affair that takes a vaguely interesting concept, attaches a laughable dramatic storyline and feeds it with some of the worst acting talent ever to grace the screen.

The vaguely interesting concept is a rare medical condition called anesthetic awareness, where a surgery patient can feel each piercing cut of the scalpel blade, but is unable to move or speak. It sounds pretty boring, but having watched The Diving Bell and the Butterfly earlier in the year, I was foolish enough to think that such difficult material may have hope of being brought alive for audiences. Sadly, it turns out that was a one-off. In Awake, the condition is not a morbidly interesting and tragic occurrence, but rather a painfully contrived plot device to exhibit what is perhaps the worst piece of dramatic storytelling since my uncle told me about the time he ran over a cat in his Ford Mondeo. The plot is thus: the stupidly named Clayton Beresford Jr (Christensen) is a high flyer in the world of finance. He's inherited his father's investment firm and has managed to expand the business, garner international respect and bag a beautiful fiancee (Alba). But there's a twist! He has a heart defect and urgently needs a transplant. I'm sure most of you can feel the tears welling up already — but wait, it gets worse. His mother is really overprotective in a creepy Freudian way and won't accept that he wants a wife. Plus, there are dastardly plots that are waiting to crawl out of the woodwork and invade this curiously privileged and cursed young prodigy. Curious? Well don't be, because it's fucking stupid.

The plot twists are hilariously contrived, and are mostly triggered by tenuous Scooby Doo-esque clues that only the world's greatest conspiracy theorists or the over observant and paranoid inhabitants of this woeful tale would notice them. Worse still, in one instance these "clues" are pieced together in a single montage scene which would embarrass even the worst straight-to-DVD melodrama directors in the universe (yes, the UNIVERSE). "The fact that she knew the button on the coffee machine needed to be held down for a bit longer than normal instantly told me she'd been here before", and "I was instantly suspicious when I noticed her mail [which she carries around in her handbag for some strange reason] had a different name to hers on it". Now, that's sleuthing!

What could salvage such brain-battering bilge I hear you ask? Well, let me tell you. It's the acting. Or, more specifically, the actors. "What??" I hear you cry, "has he gone mad?" Well don't try to get me sectioned just yet, I'm well aware of everybody's opinion on Alba's acting talent, and I haven't gone blind and deaf and thus failed to notice that Christensen is a stolen shop mannequin controlled with strings by an arthritic 90-year-old. I am merely referring to the lovely Jessica's alleged nude scenes. For those of you that were considering watching this DVD on the strength of such talk, us lovely folks at Screenjabber have decided to stick the best bits below so you can save your cash — yes, that really is all you get to see. Now, let us never speak of this film again.

EXTRAS ** An audio commentary with writer/director Joby Harold; a making-of featurette; deleted scenes; a gag reel; and a storyboard to film comparison.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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