Awake *** (out of ****)

Director: Joby Harold
Writer: Joby Harold
Cast: Hayden Christensen, Jessica Alba, Terrence Howard, Jennifer Pedersen, Steven Hinkle, Arliss Howard, Lena Olin
Rating: R (language, intense dramatic scene)
Running Time: 78 min
Release Date: 11/30/07

Can you trust your doctor? Perhaps this is the ultimate question this thriller raises. Clay Beresford (Hayden Christensen) is a very lucky man at 22 being rich and successful. On the other hand his has just survived a heart attack and is in need of a transplant. He is very grateful to the Dr. Jack Harper (Terrence Howard) the man who saved his life and plans to have his surgical team perform the operation. His mother Lilith (Lena Olin) strongly objects to this choice and thinks her son should have Dr. Neyer (Arliss Howard) a world-class heart transplant surgeon do it instead. Frankly if you’re as rich as Clay is why not get the best?

Clay has another disagreement with this mother. He is engaged to Samantha (Jessica Alba) clandestinely. When his mother finds out she is furious. I assume this issue is over social class or perhaps she mystically apprehends what is really afoot. Undeterred Clay decides to marry Samantha that night. To hell with the prenuptial agreement! However, just as this movie might be about to earn its rating, Clay get the call that they have found a donor. So it’s off to the hospital.

The hook for this movie is anesthesia awareness that we are informed happens to one patient in 700. For the unfortunate few they are paralyzed by the anesthesia but experience what is going on including the pain. It seems that this phenomenon occurs most frequently in cardiac surgery. This is what happens to Clay. As the operation proceeds he is aware and feeling everything. This includes a plot in which he is to be the victim! His awareness ultimately takes the form of an out of body event in which he seeks to save himself.

It’s good to see Jessica Alba in a more dramatic role. Susan Storm of the Fantastic 4 just doesn’t give her much to work with. Here she gets to play a more complex character. This is Joby Harold’s first time as a writer/director and he is off to a promising start. Awake is a rather short film but worth catching.

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