Awake review – snoozy thriller is insomnia cure
Maybe the biggest disappointment with Awake is no one thought to use Katy Perry’s Wide Awake as the main theme. That would require some creative or original thought — something that Awake is sorely lacking.
An unexplained phenomenon occurs that knocks out the planet’s electricity and leaves most of Earth’s population unable to sleep. Veteran Jill Adams (Gina Rodriguez, Someone Great) is among those struggling to make sense of this new status quo as every passing sleepless day makes her increasingly more disoriented and unfocused.
Jill has a reason to stay alert though as her daughter, Matilda (Ariana Greenblatt) is one of the few people that’s still able to get some badly needed shut eye. This makes her a valuable commodity on several fronts.
A church congregation with Barry Pepper presiding as the Pastor consider Matilda a miracle that’s a potential sign while a government lab helmed by Jill’s old boss, Murphy (Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight), need as much intel as possible on the sleepers. Jill’s son, Noah, (Lucius Hoyos) is dealing with dramatic mood shifts but it’s hard to tell if that’s from a lack of sleep or simply from being a teenager.
Jill’s pal, Brian (Finn Jones, Iron Fist), clues her in that the human brain can only function but so long without sleep and the incident has sped up the timer. Awake has several opportunities for strong thrills and a race against the clock element yet it still manages to come off slow and plodding.
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Director/co-screenwriter Mark Raso and co-screenwriter Joseph Raso come up with arguably the most foolproof explanation for idiotic character decisions.
If Jill for some idiotic reasons decides to take the kids on a field trip to a library and use it as an impromptu lesson on using a gun, it doesn’t have to make sense because she’s not thinking clearly. Matilda takes a walk without anyone watching her might sound like a horrible idea, but we can chalk it up to Jill operating on fumes.
The Raso brothers briefly touch on riotous conditions with people looting for sleeping pills, but they don’t consider the other perspective. Folks who understand that sleep is not an option and over-caffeinate to keep some form of an edge. Seems like Starbucks or vending machines would be far more in demand than a bottle of melatonin.
Sleep deprivation is a short code in Awake for the typical dumb moves you’ll find in clueless thrillers.
Along the way, Jill and the kids meet up with Dodge (Shamier Alexander, Race), a character who thankfully manages to avoid the typical cliché presentation that seemed likely based off his introduction. Alexander makes for a useful addition to the dynamic as he’s not invested in this quest on the basis of family as opposed to global self interest.
Dodge also manages to help Jill and the kids survive some unenthusiastic encounters with escaped prisoners and lackadaisical highway robbers.
The film’s final act is safely the worst I’ve seen so far this year. Mark Raso attempts to convey the last phases of fatigue, exhaustion and stress of a sleepless week (?) — a counter of how many hours Jill, Noah and Dodge have been sleepless would have been immensely helpful.
That’s an example of the missed opportunities throughout the film. The Rasos are more interested in hinting at ideas instead of developing them.
What’s the deal with the naked crew along a country road? Is this some new age thinking where they’ve had an awakening that clothes aren’t necessary? How are people eating without power? What happens to people on ventilation/other mechanical devices in hospitals? What’s become the new most valuable commodity?
There’s so many areas to explore with this concept while the Rasos just want to make a simple, family drama. The lack of rational thought is evident on screen as characters keep one-upping themselves in nonsensical moves, which is only rivaled by the questionable choices from the Raso brothers.
A key problem with Awake is no one can think properly so everyone’s thought process, reactions and basic common sense are skewed while getting progressively worse. It’s like watching a thriller in slow-motion where everyone moves at the same disinterested pace.
With so little incentive to stay invested, much less avoid the easy temptation to drift off yourself, there’s little reason to give this a shot unless you’re in need of a sleep aid.
Rating: 3 out of 10
Photo Credit: Netflix