That sleepy feeling


Starring Hayden Christensen, Jessica Alba and Terrence Howard. Directed by Joby Harold. Feather River Cinemas, Paradise Cinema 7 and Tinseltown. Rated R.
Rated 3.0

A medical phenomenon known as “anesthesia awareness” has been gaining a certain amount of infamy of late. It’s where a patient put under general anesthesia still maintains a sense of awareness during the course of surgery, an awareness undetected by the surgeons but still leaving the patient to endure excruciating pain during the course of the ordeal.

As they say, this is the stuff that horror films are made of, and Awake tries to fill that niche. Unfortunately, it’s not much of a horror film. Actually, it’s not much of anything.

Clayton Beresford Jr. (Hayden Christensen) is a young man who has everything; heir to untold wealth, seemingly loyal friends (Terrence Howard, for one), and a lovely girlfriend (Jessica Alba).

He also has the Ice Queen (Lena Olin) as a mother … and a bad ticker. But welcome news arrives when a replacement heart is located and Clay is soon prepped and put under the knife of his good friend. As the anesthesia kicks in (but doesn’t exactly) our hero comes to the painful awareness that all is not as it seems.

It’s never a good sign when a film has to rely on a narrator, or use flashbacks to progress the story, and in no way is Awake the film to rise above lazy narrative devices. The script is loaded with soap-opera mechanizations, out-of-body loopiness and faux-medical flapdoodle that is blatantly preposterous even to the layman. Even worse, the film never really explores the high-concept hook that the premise dangles on.

And while Christensen has shown that he is a capable actor in the right hands (say, as in the excellent Shattered Glass), he is also extraordinarily embarrassing to endure in the wrong (say, George Lucas). As exhibited here, writer/director Joby Harold falls into the latter category and leaves Christensen prone to a painful (to the viewer) emoting that eventually becomes ludicrous.

Alba is cute, though.