Netflix’s latest film, Awake, has the most preposterous premise I’ve seen in a long, long time. One that can be easily debunked with basic kindergarten science. Some will say “suspension of disbelief!”, which is fine, but how can I suspend my disbelief when the entire plot device the film relies on is:
- Scientifically improbable
You see, in Awake, the world encounters a cataclysmic blackout, which causes every house, appliance, and car to lose power. That’s a possibility and could happen in the not-too-distant future if we aren’t careful with the planet. However, writer/director Mark Raso and co-screenwriter Joseph Raso decide to take it up a notch. The blackout has also disrupted some random neurons (which, how?) in the brain and, because of this, humans can no longer sleep . . . except for a select few. One of the “few” is Jill Adams’ (Gina Rodriguez, “Miss Bala”) daughter Matilda (Ariana Greenblatt, “Love and Monsters”), and the “phenomenon” is some sort of unexplained miracle. Everyone wants to sleep and find a cure for their sleepless nights. So Jill and her family go to the hub of Dr. Murphy (Jennifer Jason Leigh, “Annihilation”) to use her daughter as a “guinea pig,” if you will, to potentially find some cure. This result is a terribly nonsensical, ridiculous dystopian science-fiction flick that grows more insane as the film progresses.
The funny thing is, the premise could’ve worked if the craziest part of it was explained in some way more than one throwaway line. Look at another movie in which sleep was a central plot device: “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” All four versions established this fact: If you fall asleep, they will get you, and the alien duplicate will replace your body. In Abel Ferrara’s “Body Snatchers,” it was explicitly told: “They get you when you sleep!” and then what happens if you, unfortunately, fall asleep is shown. Here, no one ever bothers to explain its most important plot point: Why did people lose sleep? You can’t possibly tell me that a blackout not only disrupted the power grid, but the natural clock of humans, which caused the entire world to become insomniacs without having some easily fabricated scientific mumbo-jumbo available for me to suspend my disbelief.
Here’s the thing: If your body senses a disruption in its natural clock (for example, if it is jet-lagged), it eventually adapts itself to its new environments and finds a perfect time to . . . fall asleep. You learn about sleep and its benefits in kindergarten — to quasi-convince you to fall asleep for your mandatory afternoon nap. If the entire film is based on a condition that isn’t even explained, how do you want me to invest myself in a film that never wants to tell me WHY humans can’t sleep? It’s even more ridiculous when the characters become TIRED and never bother to . . . I don’t know . . . close their eyes and see if they can sleep or not? Why is Matilda able to sleep like a baby when others cannot? What makes her so special? Sleeping doesn’t require a degree in physics to attempt — it’s biological and humans must do it every single day to ensure their survival.
So, when Jill and others start to become tired and progressively lose their minds, the only thing audience members could have in their mind is approach the screen and yell “SLEEP! My God, why can’t you sleep? You’re tired! Go to SLEEP!” Jill has gone five days without sleep, and there is never a moment in which she goes, “maybe I should just shut my eyes for a bit to see how it works.” Nope, not once. The only way for anyone to fall asleep is to apparently DIE for a minute or two and get immediately resuscitated. Again, no one ever bothers to fall asleep and accepts collective insomnia as fact — when it’s impossible, even if the entire world ends or goes to a literal apocalypse-like state, the body will still say, “I can’t stay awake anymore.”
The filmmakers then take the entire ridiculous premise one step further during its hilarious climax, in which the army soldiers in the hub mistake a PINE NUT for a grenade and start shooting at one another, believing an enemy is afoot. I guess its just another unintended consequence from sleep deprivation . . .
Clearly, this movie does not want audiences to think and blink their eyes. It’s beautifully shot and does contain lots of kinetic action sequences, but aside from that, it’s an appalling piece of sci-fi debris that got dumped onto the Netflix slate. After a good night’s sleep (and even without), Awake is one dystopian thriller that is easily forgotten.