Monday, November 11, 2013

Awake (2007)(Spoiler Review)

**This review contains spoilers**

Wealthy businessman Clay Beresford (Hayden Christensen) is stuck in a troubling dilemma. As the top man in his deceased father’s company, Clay tries to close a lucrative deal, but Clay’s health causes some major concerns. Suffering from a potentially fatal heart condition, Clay needs a heart transplant to save his life.

Clay’s overprotective and controlling mother, Lilith (Lena Olin) urges Clay to choose Dr. Jonathan Neyer (Arliss Howard), a world renowned surgeon, who’s in line to become the next Surgeon General, for the operation, but Clay refuses. Instead, Clay picks Dr. Jack Harper (Terrence Howard) for the surgery. Dr. Harper saved Clay’s life after an attack. Afterwards, Clay and Dr. Harper developed a bond as friends, so out of loyalty and respect, Clay rejects Dr. Neyer.

To add to his growing list of problems, Clay is in a secret relationship with his mother’s assistant, Sam (Jessica Alba). Terrified of Lilith’s reaction to losing her only baby boy, Clay secretly proposes to and marries Sam, but after some intense pressure from Sam, Clay finally breaks the news to a dissatisfied and angry Lilith.

Minutes before the surgery, Clay is reassured by Jack, and members of his team, including Dr. Puttnam (Fisher Stevens) and Penny (Georgina Chapman), but Clay’s eased spirit is disturbed once the anesthesia kicks in. Clay is unable to speak, move, or open his eyes, and as a result of anesthesia awareness, Clay is able to hear everything going on around him.

Clay is struggling to comprehend his bizarre situation, and things only get worse, when Clay accidentally overhears every little detail in Dr. Harper’s plot to murder him on the operating table……….

Why is Dr. Jack Harper trying to murder Clay? Well, Dr. Harper is stuck behind a wall of debt after a series of malpractice lawsuits. Dr. Harper used his trusted friendship with Clay against him, and during the transplant, Dr. Harper plans to inject the donated heart with an untraceable poison, so after the surgery is complete, Dr. Harper can cling to the excuse of Clay’s body rejecting the heart.

But that’s only half of the plan. Remember, Dr. Harper needs to be in a position to collect the insurance money from Clay’s death AND his inheritance. Penny and Putnam are in on the scheme…and Sam is playing Clay for a fool. With some goading from Dr. Harper and A LOT of pressure from Sam, Clay marries Sam the night before his surgery. Why is Sam apart of this? Sam used to work under Dr. Harper, and she wants a piece of the pie, so Sam agreed to deceive Clay into accepting her as the love of his life. Clay was an easy target as the neutered momma’s boy, and Sam was able to use Clay’s desires of a leap into manhood as motivation to turn Clay against his obsessive mother.

Of course, a small monkey wrench is thrown into Jack’s plans. The little angel on Jack’s shoulder creates a moral conundrum for the conflicted doctor, and on top of that, a member of Jack’s team backs out at the last second. A surgeon named Fitzpatrick abandons the team, so Dr. Larry (Christopher McDonald), a bumbling alcoholic, replaces him.

Awake throws a plethora of sneaky twists at you, but they save the big shocker for the grand  finale. So Clay’s bodiless form is trying to warn anyone, who’ll listen, but Clay is the only one, who can hear his voice, so his cries for help fall on deaf ears. Luckily, Lilith had a keen sense of suspicion about Sam and Jack, and after some sleuthing into Sam‘s background, Lilith knew she had to do something, quickly. With one last desperate attempt to save her son’s life, Lilith commits suicide by overdosing on a bottle of pills. Before her death, Lilith called Dr. Neyer so he could warn the police, and perform the surgery on Clay using her heart to match Clay’s rare blood type. Dr. Neyer successfully saves Clay’s life with the surgery, Larry helps the police catch Putnam and Penny, and everyone else involved in the scheme is arrested.

For varying reasons, Jack and his cohorts receiving their deserved punishment may or may not provide those rewarding feelings of closure you’re looking for. There’s a moment towards the end, where Sam tries to back out of the deal, as the police arrive, using the “grieving widow” as her cover. But Jack kept the syringe containing the poison used to inject Clay’s heart in a sealed plastic bag for evidence…..and Sam’s fingerprints are all over the syringe. In the operating room, Jack was having second thoughts about killing Clay, so Sam PUSHED Jack to inject the heart, and Sam is the one, who filled the syringe with poison. Sam is outside of Jack’s office, as he flashes the plastic bag in front of the door with a smile on his face. Sam pleads with Jack to handover the bag, but Jack locks the door, leaving Sam stuck outside with police.

Although, there’s a chance you’ll roll your eyes at this finale. Why? Because it’s kind of hard to ignore the preposterous series of circumstances before Clay’s revival. For starters, Clay isn’t dreaming. His bodiless form is actually roaming the hospital, trying to warn anyone, who’ll listen about Jack’s plan, AND somehow, Clay’s bodiless form is capable of going back in time to relive events in his past for some “How did I miss this?” hindsight moments? Eh, okay. On top of that. Clay’s bodiless form is capable of having a conversation with Lilith’s bodiless form towards the very end. After Neyer completes the surgery, Clay’s heart rate drops. This is happening, because Clay, realizing his mother is the only person he can trust 100% with no doubts, decides to stay in the afterlife with her. But Lilith urges Clay to return to the living world, so he can enjoy the rest of his life. Reluctantly, Clay obliges, and Clay opening his eyes is the last image you’ll see in Awake.

Yeah, suspension of disbelief is CRUCIAL for enjoying Awake. Awake feels like a sci-fi thriller, that’s trying way too hard to be crafty and complex most of the time, but I have to admit, it’s hard to look away. I had to know what would happen to Clay every step of the way. Is Clay going to survive? Will someone actually hear Clay in the hospital? Will Jack randomly pull the plug on the scheme to save Clay’s life? I was hooked into the story with each passing minute, and Awake deserves credit for some well placed and genuinely surprising swerves.

Overall, the cast is capable at best. Hayden Christensen is decent in the leading role, and it’s nice to Jessica Alba break out of her usual mold of being the innocent ray of sunshine to take on a more devious and cold-hearted character, but it’s almost impossible to pick out a top notch performance from this cast. Terrence Howard comes close as the conflicted best friend, but his character is overshadowed by an overwhelming amount of screen time for Clay. Lena Olin is another top contender. She’s spot on as the controlling, delusional, and emotionally abusive mother, but Lilith encounters the same problem Jack encountered: Clay’s screen time and focus dominates everything. And for what it’s worth, McDonald is good for a few laughs, as the seemingly dimwitted drunk.

Still, I really enjoyed Awake. As I said before, strapping yourself into suspension of disbelief mode is essential to buying into or tolerating the supernatural side of this film, and some will complain about a contrived story and preposterous plot twists. But if you’re willing to sit back and enjoy some fun, Awake is an effective and satisfying mystery/thriller, with an intriguing and deceptive story. Awake leads you down one street, and out of nowhere, the story takes a sharp turn into a series of tricky, bumpy roads with thick clouds of unsettling fog.

Rating: 6/10

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