“Every year, one in 700 people wake up during surgery. When they planned her husband’s murder they never thought he’d be the one.”
Director: Joby Harold
Cast: Hayden Christensen, Jessica Alba, Terrence Howard
Synopsis: The story focuses on a man who suffers “anesthetic awareness” and finds himself awake and aware, but paralyzed, during heart surgery. His mother must wrestle with her own demons as a turn of events unfolds around them, while trying to unfold the story hidden behind her son’s young wife.
At some point in the last twenty or so years, Hollywood decided that it was no longer necessary for a script to have any plausibility in order to be green-lit. As long as the male and female leads were attractive and the story had a compelling hook, and the movie had a better than average chance of making a profit then that was good enough for the studios. Awake is a perfect example of the Accountants’ Guide to Movie-Making. With a plot that defies belief — or an in-depth summary that won’t make it seem even dafter than it actually is – Awake earned four times more money than it cost to make. If I were to attempt to list all of the plot holes and implausible twists contained within its plot it would take you longer to read this review than to watch the film. And yet, for all that, in a twisted way I kind of liked it…
Hayden Christensen plays insanely rich kid Clay Beresford. There are plenty of reasons for us to not like young Clay; he lives a life of immense privilege, he’s impossibly good-looking, and he is bedding the delectable Sam Lockwood (played by the delectable Jessica Alba). But Clay has a dodgy ticker, one which might give up on him at any time, and is awaiting a suitable donor for a transplant. His doctor and friend Jack Harper (Terence Howard) invites him into the operating room to give him a taste of what he’s going to do and to advise him to marry that girl while he can. Most people die before receiving a transplant, he helpfully informs Clay, and half of those who survive the operation die within ten years of receiving their new heart. Personally, I can’t help thinking that the attendant delights associated with wedding and bedding the luscious Ms. Alba would give even the healthiest of hearts a good workout, so Lord only knows what it would do to a crook one like Clay’s.
Anyway, it’s not that which prevents Clay from marrying Sam, but fear of disappointing his overbearing mother (Lena Olin), who has run the family business empire following the premature death of Clay’s father (Sam Robards). Not only has Clay kept his engagement to the long-suffering Sam secret from everyone for six months, he also practically ignores her when she carries out her duties as his mother’s personal assistant. Eventually, things come to a head and Clay summons up the courage to confront his mother, only to be forced to make a choice between her and his fiancee. No sooner has he made the decision and hastily married Sam than a donor heart becomes available.
There can’t be many ways to build a story around a patient remaining conscious of everything that’s going on while they’re supposed to be under anaesthetic (none which don’t involve lengthy malpractice suits, anyway), and there isn’t really much reason for it to happen in Awake — other than the fact, of course, that this was the hook upon which the movie was sold. The story is complete rubbish, of course, but it’s told at such a breakneck pace that, unless you’re completely incapable of simply disregarding all the preposterous twists, you can’t help finding yourself carried along with it. And even if the daftness of it all means you really can’t forgive — or at least tolerate — Awake, there’s always the gorgeous Ms. Alba to gaze upon…