Awake review – our take on the new Netflix Original thriller.
There was a lot of hype surrounding Netflix’s Awake, however did it deliver? Will it hit the highs of Bird Box? Here is our take with our Awake review.
If Awake reminds us of anything, it’s that we don’t need monsters or the supernatural to scare us … human beings can be scary enough all on their own.
This just-released Gina Rodriguez thriller slow-walks us through the terror of a complete societal breakdown after an unexplained apocalyptic event prevents people from sleeping. It’s a fascinating and novel idea (an accomplishment for any end-of-the-world movie these days) but the predictable plot turns and slow pace prevents the movie from delivering on a promising idea.
The set up is beautiful. Rodriguez portrays Jill, a widow who has screwed up her life so badly that her children were taken from her and given to her cautious, judgemental mother-in-law (Francis Fisher). The movie opens with her trying to make ends meet by stealing outdated pills from the university where she works and selling them to the local drug dealer. She looks so exhausted and filled with shame, it’s almost hard to watch.
Casting Gina Rodriguez, usually known for her comic, plucky characters, was such an interesting choice. We already like her, and we are rooting for her right away, believing in the actress almost as much as the character herself. Sadly, this is no Erin Brokovich showcasing the gritty, dramatic chops of Julia Roberts. Whether it was the sleep-deprivation being portrayed or the slow-paced editing, Rodriguez just remains flat the entire movie. She never takes on the mantle of hero that the genre demands.
Unlike other recent survival movies featuring a strong female “mommy” protagonist (Sandra Bullock’s Bird Box, the first half of Greenland), this film never elevates itself above all the post-apocalyptic cliches: A mom escapes the bad people and takes her children to safety.
The safe zone in this film is called “The HUB” and turns out to be a powder keg of medical experiments, assault rifles and soldiers with no sleep. The doctor in the film is played by the totally wasted talents of Jennifer Jason Leigh. She gets all of 2-3 forgettable scenes, and we never see the evil psychiatrist who tortures prisoners, that Rodriguez seems so afraid of.
There never seems to be a clear enemy in this movie, which is part of the problem. There were so many missed opportunities to slow down and make this the terrifying Stanley Kubrick (The Shining) or Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho) style psychological thriller that it might have been.
With a world slowly descending into madness, humans becoming more psychotic with each sleepless hour and the cure fading out of reach there was a tragic “miss” here with Awake. The timing of this movie, during a global pandemic, could actually have helped with the obvious parallels and race-to-overcome what we have lived through the last year. We all experienced how vulnerable we are as human beings, and understand the search for safety in our real lives.
Unfortunately, in the fictional world at least, it’s going to have to be a different movie that gives us the heroes we are looking for.
Watch: Awake Trailer
Awake is now streaming on Netflix.
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