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film review

Canadian director Mark Raso has a neat germ of an idea here, and managed to assemble a ridiculously talented cast.Peter H. Stranks/NETFLIX/Netflix

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  • Awake
  • Directed by Mark Raso
  • Written by Mark Raso and Joseph Raso
  • Starring Gina Rodriguez, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Barry Pepper
  • Classification N/A; 96 minutes

Were you one of the 80 million and counting Netflix subscribers who watched the apocalyptic what-if-you-could-never-open-your-eyes-outdoors thriller Bird Box? (Or, you know, one of the 80 million-plus subscribers who watched at least 70 per cent of the film, given the streamer’s curious viewership metrics?) Well, then you’re likely to enjoy, or at least 70 per cent tolerate, Awake, the service’s new apocalyptic thriller that asks a very Bird Box-y question: What if everyone in the world suddenly couldn’t fall asleep?

Turns out, things go to Hell pretty quickly. Which is what former soldier/current security guard Jill (Gina Rodriguez) discovers when, one day, the world becomes wide-awake for no reason in particular. (A different, more interesting film might have threaded in a metaphor here about political wokeness, but Awake isn’t that kind of movie.) Armed with only her military training, some determination, and a rather narratively convenient working relationship with the world’s foremost expert in sleep deprivation (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Jill must try to save her two kids, battle her own debilitating mind, and maybe avert the End Times, too.

Canadian director Mark Raso (Kodachrome), who wrote the script with his brother Joseph, has a neat germ of an idea here, and managed to assemble a ridiculously talented cast, too. While Rodriguez and Leigh would be enough for one thriller, we also get Gil Bellows as an ethically conflicted doctor, Shamier Anderson as a convict with a heart of gold, and the always welcome Barry Pepper as a preacher spiritually perplexed by the state of events. But for many reasons – budget, stylistic ambition, narrative credibility – the film aggravates when it should captivate.

So for those asking the obvious: Yes, Awake should put you to sleep rather quickly.

Awake is available to stream on Netflix starting June 9

In the interest of consistency across all critics’ reviews, The Globe has eliminated its star-rating system in film and theatre to align with coverage of music, books, visual arts and dance. Instead, works of excellence will be noted with a Critic’s Pick designation across all coverage.