AWAKE (2007) 

Hayden Christensen
Jessica Alba
Terrence Howard
Lena Olin
Fisher Stevens
Christopher McDonald
Arliss Howard
Georgina Chapman
Sam Robards

Joby Harold



Time: 84 mins.
Rating: R
Genre: Drama/Thriller

SYNOPSIS: A wealthy young heart patient believes his dreams are coming true when he marries his lovely young girlfriend and gets a new heart in the same night. Only to discover to his horror, when he's not fully put under during the transplant surgery, that the people who proclaimed to care about him and his future would rather see him dead than alive.

BOTTOM LINE: This is a clever concept based on a real medical condition that is a true nightmare for the thousands of people every year who have to live through being awake during their surgery. The actual plot of the film isn't all that surprising for anyone who watches a lot of thrillers; however, they hide the secrets well-enough to keep you engaged in the story. I'm not a huge fan of Christensen but he's well cast here as Clay Beresford, a rich, naive young man who falls for the lovely Alba and almost loses his life because of his misguided attraction. She's so sweet and gorgeous one can hardly blame him and his feelings are so sincere that his surprise and terror at not only finding himself awake during the surgery, but hearing that the doctors he trusted aren't really planning on saving his live delivers serious chills. They use his sense of loyalty and need for independence against him. If he had been older, their scheme (and thus the whole film) would just never have worked.

Why they hatch this devious plot has little to do with Clay and everything to do with his money. He discovers the true nature of the plan when he has an out-of-body experience during the surgery, which could have been hokey, but is actually handled in a visually interesting way. Of course, this never would have happened if he had just listened to his mother, played by Olin. She's fiercely protective of her son and wary of the young beauty he married, who she feels used her place as her assistant to seduce Clay and trap him into marriage. At first she just comes off as a controlling bitch, but halfway through the film when her intuition is found to be true, the ladies practically switch personalities, giving them each a chance to turn the usual flat woman roles into something a bit more juicy.

Neither won any awards for their work here, but this turn about elevates the quality of the film just a bit. Howard has the thankless role as the doctor who befriends and then betrays his patient in the hopes that can save his own skin. He's the only one who shows any remorse about what they're planning on doing, but he's not entirely convincing and that initially adds tension to the proceedings. Will he go along with the plan to kill his "friend" or save him at the last moment? The film does itself no favors by taking the decision out of his hands. The ending is more than a bit ridiculous, but at least it gave more screentime to Olin and that's never a bad thing. While not the best thriller ever made, it has some good moments and is smart enough to keep most people engaged.

"Am I supposed to still hear you?"

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