Released: 9th June
Seen: 15th June
Sometimes a film can have a simple well-worn idea and use it well enough to make something interesting, and sometimes a film can have an interesting original idea and be about as bland as paper made from milk toast and mayonnaise. Awake is going to be that second kind of film and you’re probably going to be as irritated as I am at just how badly they wasted a potentially interesting idea on a film that’s so forgettable and stupid.
Awake hypothesises a world where suddenly all technology stops working at the same time that every person on the planet stops being able to sleep. The sleep deprivation starts almost instantly, since the insomnia symptoms are highly accelerated because we only have 90 minutes and we need to have people going insane by the 15-minute mark damnit! We follow Jill (Gina Rodriguez) and her children Matilda (Ariana Greenblatt) and Noah (Lucius Hoyos) who just get out of a car accident when this craziness begins and that’s it. The only reason we’re following them at all is that Matilda can sleep and that’s the only interesting thing about them… when your most interesting character trait is “Can sleep”, that’s not a good sign.
From the writer of Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 2 and the director of nothing that interesting comes this thrilless thriller that doesn’t even have enough style to cover the substance it seriously lacks. Let’s get the obvious joke quote out of the way early “Awake is so boring that it could put you to sleep”, there, I have now done some serious witty critique which is more than this bland film deserves. For a concept so theoretically interesting as “everyone stays awake until they go batshit crazy” it’s amazing how there’s nothing about this film that even approaches the concept of “being worth my time”… and considering how worthless my time is, that’s saying a lot.
The acting barely passes functional throughout the entire runtime of this series of moving images and that’s not on the actors, all of whom are totally fine in other things but it’s just such a bad script that there’s nothing they can do with it. It’s weirdly perfect that it feels like they’re all sleepwalking through the film, and not in an intentional “I’m acting like I’ve been awake for a week” way. No one seems to actually care that much about what they’re doing and I don’t blame them because the film isn’t written well enough to care that much about.
The story itself could possibly work, a slow progression from people realising something’s going terribly wrong to the world being in chaos can make for an interesting tale. The problem is that it’s so rushed that by the 10 minute mark we’re already seeing a church of people trying to sacrifice a child in order to bring sleep back… by this point in the film they’ve been unable to sleep for 24 hours and as anyone who has been around for the last year knows, being awake for 24 hours is kids’ stuff. It ratchets up the intensity of the world but never makes you care about anyone in it. That combination of ludicrous reactions and blank slate characters makes it borderline unwatchable.
Do you know how this could’ve worked? For starters get good writers but after that, you make this into a mini-series. I know for a fact that’d work because I’m old enough to remember Torchwood Miracle Day where they had a similar idea (instead of ”People stop sleeping” it was “People stop dying”) and actually took the time to explore the full ramifications of such a world-changing event. This one just goes “Nah, it’ll make everyone homicidal in about 12 minutes” and doesn’t go beyond that. I know nothing about the main characters, nothing about the world we’ve built and at best I know that everyone wants to murder each other. The Purge does this better for crying out loud!
Awake fails on so many levels. It’s badly written, boring and easy to ignore even when you’re literally staring directly at it. Its interesting idea is squandered and rushed through like it’d be an inconvenience for them to take an extra couple of minutes to tell me why exactly I should give even half a damn about anything going on here. Let’s end this on another obvious cliche joke because if the film doesn’t have to try, why should I… “Awake should be put to sleep”.