Sunday, March 2, 2008

Awake. Well, not me, after ten minutes of this movie. Alliance Films, this Tuesday the 4th of March. (****4/10)

The basic premise of Awake is a good one. A man is going in for open heart surgery, and the anaesthesia does not work 100% properly. You see, he is awake during the entire surgical procedure. He can't move a muscle, he can't speak, but he is aware of his surroundings and he can smell and feel and hear everything that is going on. Which leads to a very intense scene when he first realizes that he can hear everything that's happening in the operating room, and he can feel the incisions. The scene is fairly graphic, in a surgery-channel sort of way, and my girlfriend couldn't watch. Which means she missed the best seven minutes of the movie. The rest of the movie is maudlin, phony, and fairly irritating. And I blame two people in particular. The Star Wars Guy and the Bikini-Chick. Those two people are the stiff-as-a-board Hayden Christensen, and the sweet-as-pie-with-giant-eyes Jessica Alba.

The DVD cover for Awake has a quote from Frank Scheck, movie reviewer for the Hollywood Reporter. He says "Awake does for surgery what Jaws did for the beach". If he means it will make people afraid to go under the knife, he is wrong. If he means it will send people screaming in droves from it, perhaps he is right. In fact, based on that logic, Awake does for Hayden Christensen movies what Jaws did for the beach. Maybe, just maybe, people won't go back into the theatre for these things for a long time. Hayden Christensen is just painful. At best, he is a third-rate Christian Bale, which works fine for the acting-is-not-required Star Wars roles, but rarely is effective elsewhere in the movies. And Jessica Alba has the appearance, the charizma and the acting talent of a ridiculously attractive cabbage patch doll. Which makes these two the least believable screen couple this side of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley. Oh, they do the standard movie scene where he pulls her into the tub with her clothes on - get it? They are in love, and that's what people in love do...

At any rate, while he is aware of his surroundings but unable to respond, Christensen hears a plot to kill him! An evil scheme that involves his murder while he is having a heart transplant! But how is he to stop it? Well, it turns out, he isn't. He must hope that his loved ones piece things together before he comes out of his coma. And in the meantime, we watch him wander around the hospital in a completely ineffective out-of-body experience. Meanwhile, characters become their own narrators so that we know exactly what is happening. Dialogue like "OK, now you do exactly what we discussed. Take this syringe that I have prepared for you, put it into the heart he is about to receive, press down on the plunger, and then when the heart is placed in his chest, he will die, and we will collect the money. And remember, the reason we did this is..." If I was planning to kill someone for any reason at all, and I was conspiring with someone else, I don't think I would have to explain the entire plan to that person more than once. But, it sure helps us (and Christensen) know what is going on!

Awake has seven minutes which are intense, exciting, and terrific. They occur when Hayden Christensen is in a coma and can't act, and Jessica Alba is fretting in another room and isn't a part of the scene. The other 77 minutes of this movie are either poor or awful. I suggest avoiding all the minutes in this film.

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