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PUBLISHED: 16:35 02 April 2008 | UPDATED: 17:10 16 August 2010

ANESTHETIC awareness, a rare medical condition in which patients who have been anaesthetised remain


Cert 15

ANESTHETIC awareness, a rare medical condition in which patients who have been anaesthetised remain helplessly paralysed while remaining fully aware of what is happening to them, forms the foundation for this lacklustre high concept howler.

Clayton Beresford Jr (Hayden Christensen) is the 22-year-old yuppie son of a deceased billionaire who lives at home with his overbearing mother Lilith (Lena Olin). After discovering he has a serious heart condition he comes clean about his secret relationship with his mum's assistant Sam (Jessica Alba) and the two get engaged. On the day of their wedding his best buddy and surgeon Jack Harper (Terrance Howard) informs him that a donor heart has been found for his transplant.

While under anaesthetic in the operating room, Clay realises that although he is unable to move he is very much awake with all of his senses painfully intact.

As he struggles to hear the surgeons' voices through the pain he discovers a few unsettling truths about his best friend and new wife.

The film starts to get interesting when it concentrates on the horror and claustrophobia felt by Clay as he watches helplessly while the doctors prepare themselves for the operation, but soon runs out of steam. About halfway through, director Joby Harold runs out of ideas and, via an out of body experience, shifts the focus to the talk around the table and what could have been an intriguing, visceral insight into the mind of a person forced to watch, and feel, every incision of their heart transplant morphs into a predictable supernatural thriller.

The two leads are as wooden as a pair of rocking horses and exhibit a dire lack of spark rivalling the woeful chemistry which Christensen shared with Natalie Portman in The Star Wars Prequel.

By glossing over the nightmarish psychological possibilities presented by the central conceit the film ends up somewhat dull and uninspired and is, despite its title, unlikely to leave many viewers awake by the time the credits roll.

* Awake opens in cinemas on April 4.

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