Directed by Mark Raso
Starring Gina Rodriguez, Shamier Anderson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Ariana Greenblatt, Frances Fisher, Barry Pepper, Gil Bellows, Finn Jones, Sergio Di Zio, Chai Valladares, Lucius Hoyos, Julia Chantrey, and Sebastian Pigott.
After a devastating global event wipes out all electronics and eliminated people’s ability to sleep, a former soldier may have found a solution with her daughter.
The concept of Awake is original and sound, but the execution from co-writer/director Mark Raso (from a story by Gregory Poirier and scribing alongside Joseph Raso) relies on one too many apocalyptic sub-genre tropes that slowly overtake that refreshment. It stars Gina Rodriguez as ex-soldier working-class mother Jill pulling hospital night shifts and stealing and selling zombie drugs to street buyers on the side. Her two children Matilda (Ariana Greenblatt) and Noah (Finn Jones), live with their grandmother while Jill sorts out everything from financial problems to PTSD. Such living conditions no longer matter, as one day, while Jill drives the kids around, a worldwide power outage occurs that comes with a mysterious side effect of people no longer being able to fall asleep. The ones that are already unconscious, not limited to extreme circumstances such as comas, wake up on the spot.
Young Matilda is the exception to this phenomenon, still able to fall asleep. This prompts a battle for control between religious sectors such as churches and scientists (who already have at least one person unaffected by the global event) wanting to experiment and develop a cure. Meanwhile, Jill distrusts scientific methods from her past experience working alongside Dr. Murphy (Jennifer Jason Leigh), witnessing all manners of torture in the name of psychology. She’s also not too fond of the trigger-happy zealots that view her daughter as a sacrificial offering to return humanity to normalcy.
Instead of exploring the numerous psychological effects of sleep deprivation, Awake becomes a lame variation on The Walking Dead, except that people resorting to savagery and mayhem are crazy rather than zombies. The battle between religion and science is surface value with nothing thought-provoking here, playing out exactly as expected and with little emotional punch. There is an internal struggle for Jill on what to do (her son Noah is convinced that bringing Matilda to the scientists is the best course of action); she’s really only interested in seeing her children survived at any cost. On paper, that sounds like it would conjure up some organic intensity, but most of the sequences here range from semi-suspenseful sneaking around to underwhelming encounters with citizens gone mad, an oversaturated idea in entertainment, right now.
In one of the more engaging stretches, the trio encounters a friendly escaped convict played by Shamier Anderson, who is willing to help them as far as their journeys take them on the same path. His loose disposition provides some comedic levity from all the seriousness, usually consisting of mother and children arguing over what to do next. Additionally, Joe goes out of her way to teach Matilda how to use guns and drive vehicles that come across as a bit misguided, even considering the world these people now inhabit. Regardless, Matilda doesn’t have it, but she’s also not given enough focus to emerge as a fascinating character.
There’s also a trippy climactic action sequence that blurs the lines between reality and delusions that works until it’s all undone by one final revelation that is outlandishly silly. It’s hard not to make jokes about the twist to Awake, which is the final straw where whatever intrigue this concept had snaps. Awake is watchable and tries to shake up the rules and environments of an apocalyptic scenario, but it’s also just as rote and a well-traveled road to an obvious destination.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com