In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb five acts poster

Jane Fonda in Five Acts

Director Susan Lacy has the great advantage of a subject whose life has been extensively documented literally since birth.

Thumb fahrenheit eleven nine

Fahrenheit 11/9

The messiness of Moore’s film starts to feel appropriate for the times we’re in. With a new issue being debated every day, is it any…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives

Reviews

Awake

Awake Movie Review
  |  

Do not believe anything you hear about “Awake,” do not talk to anyone about it, and above all do not even glance at the poster or ads, which criminally reveal a crucial plot twist. This movie, which was withheld from critics, and has scored a pitiful 13 percent on the Tomatometer from those few who were able to see it, is a surprisingly effective thriller. I went to a regular theater to see it Friday afternoon, knowing nothing about it except that the buzz was lethal, and sat there completely absorbed.

Advertisement

The movie involves a very, very rich young man named Clay Beresford (Hayden Christensen), who lives with his loving but dominating mother (Lena Olin), and fears to tell her about his engagement to the beautiful Samantha (Jessica Alba). But “the clock is ticking,” he is warned by his friend and surgeon Jack Howard (Terrence Howard). Jack saved Clay in the E.R. after he had a massive heart attack, and now Jack’s on the waiting list for a transplant. “Marry that girl,” Jack advises him, and even invites him into the operating room for a trial run to explain how dangerous the surgery is.

This and other medical procedures are highly unlikely, and the heart transplant itself involves an improbably small team, a last-minute replacement as the anesthesiologist, and an uninvited visitor allowed to put on a surgical gown and observe. But accuracy is not the point. Suspense is. And from the moment Clay realizes he is not fully under anesthesia and can hear and feel everything that is happening, the movie had me. The character does a voice-over in which he tries to force his eyes open and signal that he’s conscious, and then a series of unexpected developments take place which I will not even begin to reveal.

Since the movie involves a plot which cannot be discussed, let me just say that I may be the slowest tomato on the meter, but I did not anticipate the surprises, did not anticipate them piling on after one another, got very involved in the gory surgical details, and found the supporting soap opera good as such things go.

It involves a rich kid who believes he can never live up to his father, a mother who believes she cannot surrender her son, and the beautiful Jessica Alba coming between them. It also involves Clay’s determination to have the transplant performed by Dr. Jack, his trusted friend, instead of his mother’s candidate (Arliss Howard), who boasts “I have had my hands inside presidents.” He wrote the book on transplants, and will be the next surgeon general. “Well, I hope Jack has read your book,” Clay replies.

Advertisement

All preposterous, I know, but this edges us into a consideration of why we are at the movies in the first place, and what works, and what does not work. I got involved. I felt real suspense. I thought Lena Olin gave a nuanced performance as the mother, who is deeper than we first think, and that the tension between her and Alba was plausible. And I thought the scenes where Clay imagines leaving his body, roaming the hospital, and having psychic conversations were well-handled.

So maybe I’m wrong. It has happened before. “Awake,” written and directed by first-timer Joby Harold, clocks at only 78 minutes, but that’s the right length for what happens. The movie opens under a cloud on a weekend all other mainstream movies have sidestepped, apparently because it’s our duty to commence Christmas shopping. But I felt what I felt, and there you have it.

Popular Blog Posts

"You Were Expecting Someone Else?" Why a Non-White James Bond is the Franchise's Logical Next Step

Not only would Idris Elba make a great James Bond, the franchise has been building towards casting an actor of color ...

Grace and Nature: On Criterion’s Release of The Tree of Life

On the new Criterion release of Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life, which includes a new 50-minute-longer extended cu...

Jonah Hill, Emma Stone Star in Netflix’s Daring, Brilliant Maniac

A review of the phenomenal new Netflix show starring Jonah Hill and Emma Stone.

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus