Awake (2007)

Genre(s): Drama / Mystery / Thriller
Weinstein Company || R - 84 minutes - $28.95 || March 4, 2008
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2008-02-25

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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Director: Joby Harold
Writer(s): Joby Harold (written by)
Cast: Hayden Christensen, Jessica Alba, Terrence Howard, Lena Olin, Fisher Stevens, Christopher McDonald

Theatrical Release Date: November 30, 2007

Supplemental Material:
  • Writer/Director Commentary
  • Deleted Scenes
  • The Making of Awake
  • Storyboard to Film Comparison
  • Theatrical Trailer

Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (2.35)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.


*** Minor Spoilers ***
Nothing revealed here that isn’t on the DVD back cover, but still I consider it spoiler country.

Awake centers on a phenomena known as “anesthetic awareness” where a patient in surgery and feel and hear everything going on around him when he’s supposed to be under. Writer/director Joby Harold, in his feature film debut, adds a twist where the patient can hear the plot to have him killed.

Hayden Christensen plays Clay Beresford, a rising business tycoon filling the shoes of his father who had passed away when he was young. He lives with his controlling mother, Lilith (Olin), and is secretly dating Sam (Alba), Lilith’s personal assistant. Clay also has a heart condition that will require a transplant but with his rare blood type, his time may be limited. His best friend and doctor, Jack (Howard), tells Clay that he needs to start living his life. Come clean to his mother. Marry Sam. You never know when your time is up. Clay does just that and during what would be their honeymoon night, he gets a call that a heart has been found and he’s prep for surgery.

The anesthesiologist (McDonald) gives Clay his own concoction but instead of actually going under, we discover, through voiceover, that he is not asleep and can feel and hear everything going on around him. During this horrific experience, he tries to focus on Sam or anything to forget the pain, with little success. Try as he might, he can’t even signal to the others that he’s feeling all this.

Awake is a movie with potential and even though it doesn’t quite fully take advantage, the film never really falls on its face either (toward the end, however, it came close). The film takes time to unfold and establish Clay’s relationships with Jack, Sam and his mother. But as the second act unfolds, the real suspense begins. No, it’s not the plotline to kill Clay -- which I consider more of a subplot for what I was interested in --, but the terror of being aware of your own surgery and the inability to do a damn thing about it. I have a fairly low threshold for pain and vehemently hate hospitals, so it was would an insufferable situation if it were me. As Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter put it, Awake does “for operations what Jaws did for the beach.” Of course, Awake is not going to be the classic Jaws is, but the point is valid. If you’re about to go into surgery, DO NOT SEE THIS FILM! Seriously, I'm just kidding. The odds of this happening, and to the extent it does in the film, is very very very minimal (like 0.001% or something like that).

The casting was well done, surprisingly so, actually. Hayden Christensen and Jessica Alba are not exactly known for their acting chops. Between Christensen’s hammy performances in Star Wars Episodes II and III and Alba’s less than stellar turn in the Fantastic Four movies (to name a couple), the two here work well together (two wrongs make a right?). The highlight for me is Terrence Howard, one of my favorite actors working today. No matter what the role is or how average the movie might be, he excels.

The supporting cast includes the lovely Lena Olin, Christopher McDonald and the supporting actor OF supporting actors, Fisher Stevens (where have you been???). All are solid actors that only enhance the movie and perhaps even mask the script’s shortcomings.

Speaking of which... Joby Harold’s script is well done and takes a concept that not many people have even heard of (or only in passing) and gives it a thriller twist to make it a worthwhile adventure. As a first time writer and director, Harold doesn’t seem to lose sight and makes very few mistakes. If I had one complaint, it would be the finale where things take a “oh come on/are you kidding me?” turn. As they say, it’s not how you start the race, but how you finish. And yes, Awake did not have a strong finish nevertheless what was there was quite effective.

What makes the film work, though, is Harold put his trust in some veterans behind the camera, including DP Russell Carpenter who has worked on several high profile films like Charlie’s Angels, The Negotiator and Titanic (and he’s currently working on the upcoming Kevin Spacey movie, 21). Getting someone with experience goes a long way for a young filmmaker and that could be all the difference between a turkey and a solid piece of entertainment.

This is not for the squeamish, but if you’ve seen enough “CSI”, you’ll survive.


Writer/Director Commentary – Joby Harold offers up a nice commentary track filled with bits of trivia while still giving the cast and crew their props. As far as solo tracks go, this is half-decent.

Under the Knife & Behind the Camera: The Making of Awake (13:12) – This is your general ‘making-of’ featurette that includes interviews (sound bites) with the cast and with first-time writer/director Joby Harold. Not much is revealed and I would’ve liked to know more about the special effects as well as the subject of “anesthetic awareness”.

Deleted Scenes (9:29) – 7 scenes are included; most are just extended sequences excised from the film to get the first act moving. There’s an optional commentary with Harold explaining primarily just that. One scene of note is an alternate introduction to McDonald’s character. Instead of first seeing him in the operating room, he’s shown here running down the hospital corridor dressed as ‘Death’, sickle and all. Very funny, but for the plot, the one in the film was much better.

Finally, the disc also includes a Storyboard to Film Comparison (8:43) feature and the theatrical trailer, a nice inclusion all DVDs should have.



Awake is presented in anamorphic widescreen and looks good. This isn’t an overly colorful movie and the director doesn’t use much color to pop out to make some kind of artistic point. Everything here looks fine, crisp and clear.

The audio is equally good, but given this is a drama-thriller (more emphasis on drama when it comes to sound), your surround sound won’t get much of a workout, but still it is more than suitable.


Awake is an interesting movie with a fascinating topic. Even though the last act was a tad laughable and, even for a movie like this, outlandish, I still give this a hearty recommendation. Joby Harold, as a first time writer/director, does a great job here with the help of a solid cast (especially Terrence Howard) and some veterans behind the camera.