“Awake,” review by Susan Granger

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Everyone has a different definition of a ‘scary’ movie. Mine doesn’t involve monsters or ghostly apparitions. Instead, it’s reality-based terror, which is why I found this admittedly mediocre psychological thriller so gripping.

In “Awake,” a patient’s failed anesthesia leaves him fully conscious but physically paralyzed during surgery. According to the American Society of Anesthesiologists and American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, of the 21 million patients who receive general anesthesia, an estimated 20,000 – 40,000 wake up during surgery. Half of them can hear what’s happening and nearly 30% experience pain but they’re unable to communicate because they’ve been temporarily paralyzed.

Like his father, Clayton Beresford Jr. (Hayden Christensen) is a Wall Street whiz. Problem is: he has a defective heart. Perhaps that’s why he still lives at home with his widowed mother, Lilith (Lena Olin), a domineering socialite. Secretly engaged to her assistant, Samantha (Jessica Alba), Clay has been reluctant to break the news to his mother – until, one night, Sam forces the issue and they elope.

Clay’s best man is Jack Harper (Terrence Howard), a cardiac specialist he befriended while on the waiting list for a transplant and, just after the wedding, a donor heart becomes available. Although his mother has lined up a pre-eminent cardiovascular surgeon (Arliss Howard), Clay insists on having Jack do the surgery.

Bad idea since Jack has several malpractice lawsuits pending. As the graphically detailed surgery commences, Clay realizes he’s still aware – but paralyzed – and that things aren’t really what they seem. Secrecy, deception and betrayal abound.

While writer/director Joby Harold suffers credibility problems, he nevertheless builds ominous suspense, so on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Awake” is a horrifying 6 – and quite unsuitable for the squeamish or those about to undergo anesthesia for surgery.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.