Review by Dan Skip Allen
Awake is the latest physiological horror movie from Netflix. They have been doing a great job releasing these types of under-the-radar films over the past decade or so. It's been part of their modus operandi. They tend to get newer filmmakers and pair them with established stars, which results in mixed success. In Awake, the pairing of Gina Rodriguez and Mark Raso works.
Jill (Gina Rodriguez) is a former soldier, now a security guard. She's the mother of two children, Matilda (Ariana Goldblatt, In the Heights) and Noah. While she's picking them up a crazy electro pulse takes out all the electricity in the country. It causes everybody to have long-term insomnia. Her daughter may be the cure though to save the population of the country. Getting her to those who can help them is the key, though.
Rodriguez has been getting some of these types of roles recently where she is in a position of strife. She's been getting this action stuff and she's good at it. Rodriguez is starting to feel at home in these roles. It's a far cry from Jane the Virgin. Besides her, there are some other notable actors in prominent roles. Finn Jones plays a man who might have the answers to why Matilda could be the cure to this crazy scenario. Barry Pepper plays a preacher who tries to get people to pray for an answer. Shamier Anderson plays a prisoner who escapes and helps Rodriguez and her family to the Hub, the location where the cure can be found.
Awake has an interesting premise and also quite a few action sequences in it. Rodriguez and her children go through a massive ordeal to get to the Hub. People are trying to kill them left and right. Insomnia keeps people from sleeping which in turn causes them to lose their judgment and do crazy things. They just can't think properly without a good amount of sleep. This is the tie that binds the plot together in the end.
The film has a pretty good look to it as well. The cinematography by Alan Poon is pretty good. I've said before that films need a lived-in look to capture the reality of the world the characters are living in. Awake has that in spades. It makes the film look real where this scenario could actually happen in real life. With technology the way it is, who knows, maybe some disgruntled country could figure out how to disable the country using an electric pulse. It's very plausible.
Similar to Bird Box in a way, Awake has the main characters go on a mission to save humanity from itself. The film is set in a realistic world where this could happen and the reactions from the people in the film are on par with how you'd think people would act in a situation like this. If people go get all the toilet paper and bottled water when an oil pipeline shuts down, who knows what they're capable of in a scenario like this one.
Awake hits Netflix on June 9.