In director Mark Raso’s sometimes partaking however largely irritating sci-fi thriller, an unexplained occasion causes an enormous electromagnetic pulse that fries most electronics and leaves practically all of humanity incapable of sleep. From the mysterious incident onward, the characters slowly slide towards madness as fatigue takes its toll, though it’s not clear how everybody on earth instantly acknowledges (or believes) that the ensuing restlessness is everlasting. If the current real-world pandemic has taught us something, it’s that early in a well being disaster, no one is aware of something, and the ensuing confusion tends to be extra exhausting than entertaining.
So, on the threat of sounding facetious, I confess that whereas exasperated ex-military, ex-junkie super-mom Jill (Gina Rodriguez) worries about whether or not she’ll ever have the ability to sleep once more, I had no such drawback. Between its low-energy suspense and all-around failure to grip, “Awake” took me three separate sittings to get by. I simply couldn’t assist nodding off. Maybe it was all that speak of a world the place folks can now not recharge their brains that made me wish to money in on 40 winks of my very own. Or perhaps I used to be too drained to be reviewing one thing from my sofa.
Not since Terry Gilliam’s tedious “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” has a film had such a narcoleptic influence on me (that’s a movie I merely can’t get by with my eyes open). “Awake” isn’t practically as uninteresting as that clunker, however it’s painfully apparent that Raso (who co-wrote with brother Joseph from a narrative by Gregory Poirier) is cribbing from different, higher post-apocalyptic motion pictures at virtually each flip, as a protecting mama shepherds her youngsters — beatific daughter Matilda (Ariana Greenblatt) and testy teen Noah (Lucius Hoyos) — by a civilization that devolved to anarchy awfully shortly.
Raso’s references are apparent. There’s Netflix’s personal hit “Bird Box,” in fact, in addition to a number of tense prolonged single-shot sequences — one trapped inside a automobile with Jill and her household, one other observing her creep round a storage — clearly impressed by “Children of Men.” But DP Alan Poon (who additionally shot Raso’s “Copenhagen” and “Kodachrome”) is not any Emmanuel Lubezki, and this world by no means feels as threatening. That’s as a result of the screenwriters haven’t sufficiently labored out their working premise right here.
It would assist audiences significantly to know what occurs when people can’t sleep — or at the very least, what “Awake” thinks will occur — with a view to respect the urgency of humanity’s predicament. At one level, a cute lab technician (Finn Jones) tries to clarify to a mob-like congregation, “Right now, your brains are slowly swelling. Our cranial walls are impressing on the brain and it’s affecting critical thinking. It’s what happens when we don’t sleep.” Or in barely catchier phrases: “If you don’t sleep, you mind will bend and bend until it breaks.”
OK, however can folks actually die from lack of shut-eye? How lengthy does that take, and wouldn’t it’s hitting everybody on roughly the identical schedule? (Maybe that explains the sudden explosion of violence that happens on the movie’s climax, though the melee appears to erupt out of nowhere, and doesn’t really feel significantly intuitive when it happens.) “Awake” really turns into much more enjoyable to observe because it goes on, since Rodriguez’s already intense efficiency grows ever extra unhinged (and hilariously haggard wanting) because the film makes an attempt to reflect its characters’ more and more delirious way of thinking.
While Jill’s survival instincts devolve into not-quite-lucid decision-making, her younger daughter Matilda (Ariana Greenblatt) appears has no hassle napping. Neither does an aged stranger already in army custody, and making an attempt to make sense of those anomalies turns into the working motor behind Jill’s actions, first to run away from the seemingly unethical researchers (represented by an unusually frowny Jennifer Jason Leigh) and later to hitch forces with escaped convict Dodge (Shamier Anderson), whose perspective most likely would have made a greater film.
“Awake” is bonkers in a enjoyable approach every now and then — as when Jill drives by a crowd of bare strangers, seemingly mesmerized by the solar — however provides the distinct impression that probably the most fascinating crises are taking place off display. Apart from the cliché automobile crash that coincides with the preliminary EMP (an excuse to get the characters to the hospital, the place even these in deep comas have come to) and a cool shot of satellites tumbling by the evening sky, an excessive amount of of the risk is implied by suggestion. And for audiences bored by what quantities to a slow-burn highway journey, it’s all too simple to shut your eyes and search for one thing extra thrilling in your desires.