Awake [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Genius Products
Review written by and copyright: Andreas Petersen (11th December 2008).
The Film

Me watching the movie "Awake" is sort of like a vegan going into an all-you-can-eat-BBQ-house where salad isn’t on the menu. I have no interest being there, don’t like the food they use, and I’m pretty sure I am going to have a bad time all around. With expectations this low, I half expected to not hate the movie as much as I expected to. Sadly, this was not the case at all.

The movie begins opens with Dr. Jack Harper (Terrance Howard) lamenting over the death of his friend Clay (Hayden Christensen), who died on his operating table. Flash back to two days earlier, and Clay and his fiancé Sam (Jessica Alba) are playfully enjoying their secret engagement. Clay is keeping his engagement secret from his mother (Lena Olin) because he feels like she wouldn’t approve for some reason. And here is my first major complaint about the film: Much of the conflict feels baseless. For some reason, there is an odd barrier between Clay and Sam, where Clay acts cruel without provocation, and his mom seems to hate all his friends, and this guy hates that guy, and this dude doesn’t trust that guy, etc. etc. The whole thing feels very soap-operaish, with conflict existing between characters for no other reason than for there to be conflict.

As the film moves on, it is explained that Clay has a weak heart, and needs a transplant, and gets one. The kicker is that while under the anesthesia, he isn’t really under, feeling and hearing everything happening in the operating room. Looking past the entirely silly scenes of Clay’s internal dialogue as he tries to ignore the pain, he eventually over hears a sinister plot amongst the doctors against him. The movie goes from “silly romance” soap opera to “oh my god they switched brains on that guy” soap opera in two minutes flat. The drama that unfolds is entirely comical, though I’m quite positive that was not the intention of Joby Harold, the film’s writer/director. In one scene specifically, involving a flash back, an abusive dad, cocaine, and a flight of stairs, I was laughing out loud.

The poor plot is hardly helped by the cast. I’ll have to be honest, I was always looking forward to a post "Star Wars" prequel (1999-2005) career for Christensen, for while he sucked in those movies, I was always a fan of his work in "Shattered Glass" (2003). With movies like "Jumper" (2008) and now "Awake" lining his resume, I’m starting not to care about him anymore. Then there’s Jessica Alba, who I honestly think is terrible in everything I have seen her in, and Awake is no exception. Don’t get me wrong, she has been in numerous movies that I have liked, I just always feel like she comes dangerously close to ruining them. Lucky for her, that job was already done on this film without taking the acting into consideration. And then there’s Terrance Howard, who I generally enjoy. Howard isn’t necessarily bad in the film, just incredibly under used. His character is paper thin, has no depth, and could have been hand picked from any of those terrible shows my mom used to watch at 10 in the morning while the kids were at school.

This sort of work belongs just there, and not in the cinemas. I’m hard pressed to find any real redeemable element to this movie. I guess it wasn’t entirely in vain though, because I did laugh pretty hard at that Santa on cocaine. Assuming you see the movie (which you shouldn’t), you’ll know what I mean.

Video

"Awake," while a terrible film, looks terrific on its 2.35:1 high-definition 1080p 24/fps Blu-Ray transfer, mastered in VC-1 compression. The picture quality was superb, with minimal noise and amazing clarity. The thing I noticed most though, was how vibrant the colors of the film looked. While the first half of the film takes place in the city, and nothing that amazing popped out to me, the latter half of the film, taking place in a hospital, looked gorgeous. The white walls, coupled with colorful photos and striking reds, left me quite impressed. This is the way contemporary films should look on Blu-Ray.

Audio

"Awake" is offered in an English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track presented at 48kHz/24-bit, along with a standard Dobly Digital 5.1 English and French tracks as well. While the sound of the film hardly made great use of my surround sound system, it is hard to knock the film down for that, because this is a character drama, not "Commando" (1985). The sound that is presented through is crystal clear. Not only does the music come out powerfully, but I noticed the care that must have gone into mixing the audio on this film, because I was picking up every little movement from the characters, and everything they touched sounded just right.
Optional subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired and Spanish.

Extras

"Awake" offers up a few extras, including a commentary track, delete scenes, a making-of featurette, and a theatrical trailer, all of which are explained below:

First up is the feature-length audio commentary track by the film's writer/director Joby Harold. This track is the type of commentary in which the participant says what is happening on screen, and will go off on tangents that this may bring up. I found this track to be very standard and really uninteresting. Basically, Harold’s comments don’t stray from the color of “This shot was done in post” and “This scene was filmed at this location”. Maybe if I liked the movie I’d care more about stuff like that, but I really want more out of a commentary track than a laundry list of uninteresting facts about each scene.

Next up are deleted scenes, all of the scenes also have an optional audio commentary track from writer/director Joby Harold, in which he quickly establishes where the scene fit in the film, and why it was cut out. they are:

- "Clay and Jack" which runs for 35 seconds, is an extension of the two characters after their fishing excursion early in the film.
- "Dracula" running for 1 minute and 44 seconds, is an extension of the Halloween party scene, in which Clay talks to a friend dressed as Dracula, who wants him to come to a strip club.
- "The Checkbook" running for 2 minutes and 55 seconds, is an extended sequence that plays out when Clay informs his mother that he is going to marry Sam. While this wasn’t a great scene, I feel as though it would have aided the film, because the scene as-is in the movie felt very fragmented, and now I know why.
- "Grim Reaper" running for 1 minute and 9 seconds, is an alternate introduction of Dr. Lupin (Christopher McDonald), in which the doctor barges into the hospital dressed as the grim reaper, coming from a Halloween party of his own.
- "First Date" which runs for 1 minute and 14 seconds, is additional footage of Clay and Sam’s first outing as a couple, as they eat at a little “urban” restaurant on the side of town Clay never dared visit. Alba is especially terrible in this scene, and it’s easy to see why this was cut.
- "Last Train Home" which runs for 53 seconds, has Clay wondering whether or not he’ll go to heaven.
- "Christmas Eve" which runs for 1 minute and 6 seconds, shows the lighter side to Clay’s menacing father (Sam Robarbs), a scene that takes place right before his hilarious bout as a cocaine fueled Santa.

"Under the Knife and Behind the Camera: The Making of Awake" featurette, which runs for 13 minutes and 13 seconds, is an oddly jumbled clip that interviews cast and crew as where the film came from, and how anesthesia-awareness is based in reality. I felt as though many of the interviews were incredibly self-congratulatory, with the director, producers, and actors, all talking about what an amazingly deep and layered movie they made.

Storyboard-to-Film comparisons, which runs for a total of 8 minutes and 45 seconds, is just as it’s title says. This feature confused me, while the movie itself looked good, I felt as though it was a very plainly directed film, and wasn’t interested at all to see pictures of people talking transferred to the screen.

Lastly, the film includes the theatrical trailer, which runs for 2 minutes and 21 seconds.

Overall

The Film: D Video: A Audio: B+ Extras: B- Overall: C+

 


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