BY IFE OLUJUYIGBE
One of 2012’s most popular movies, The Awakening tells the story of a young advertising executive who keeps having premonitions of deaths of random people. In a bid to help one of the victims of his trance avoid his impending death, he gets into trouble with the law, and is accused of murder. With an overzealous police officer on his tail, he seeks answers and tries to prove his innocence. This leads him to a journalist, Zainab Oreka, who quickly becomes his ally. They however do not realize they are more connected than they think.
The Awakening is dubbed a ‘dark thriller’, but watching the first thirty minutes, it is almost a lullaby. In a bid to create suspense, the director drags scenes unnecessarily, and adds events that do nothing to push the plot forward. Zainab is given an ancient box by a woman who appears mysteriously in her house, and disappears after a haphazard warning to guard it. We attempt to connect it to the very first scene, a flashback to several years before where the same box is handed to a young village girl by her dying father and given similar instructions, and while this gets us excited about a hidden mystery, Zainab spends the next hundred years bothering about the box, surfing the net or watching TV. This probably explains why the movie is over two hours long when it could easily have lasted ninety minutes.
The plot however picks up when Nicholas begins to flee from the police. The policeman in charge of the case, Gbade, is such an annoying character who is rash and unfeeling. I suspect this is what the director (James Omokwe, alongside Ethan Okwara) attempts to achieve, however, this policeman goes the extra mile to put one off, considering that he does not find any concrete proof of Nicholas as a murderer other than a video of him in a bar; and especially because he is established to be friends of many years with Nicholas. So when he calls him on the phone just after seeing the ‘evidence’ and says “I know you did it, you better turn yourself in”, your face contorts into a ‘how’ frown and the whole thing annoys the heck out of you.
While Inspector Gbade is on his James Bond action movie spree which isn’t in the least believable, we find ourselves endeared to the duo of Zainab and Nicholas. Their familiarity is a progression the director is careful not to mess with, and when at a point, we find that they develop feelings, it is pleasant and comes as no sour surprise.
The story is fresh and different, (although it bears certain similarities to Uru Eke’s 2016 film, Remember Me which coincidentally stars OC Ukeje). The writer takes his time to build a story that climaxes beautifully, and the unraveling of the mystery is properly arranged. Employing the supernatural helps to explain away many seeming holes in the plot, but isn’t strong enough to explain certain oversights, and leaves pebble-sized holes in our faces, slightly poiling a potentially delicious meal. One is how, in the scene where the police ambushes Nicholas and Zainab, the trance and the eventual happenings do not tally. Nothing is said of the officer who is shot by another on the influence of evil spirits; we are not even sure he is shot dead or shot to sleep! The conclusion, while being action packed with guns, knives, evil forces and special effects, begins to lose colour as soon as the police officer steps into the scene, chewing gum. For some reason (which includes his bland facial expressions), it just ceases to work.
The animations are properly done in this film when the story of Ilibiana’s history is told, and the accompanying soundtrack is perfect for effects. The casting works with the duo of OC Ukeje as Nicholas and Kehinde Bankole as Zainab. Tope Tedela does well with his narrations and role as the head of the household, and while Brian Okwara’s role as Sokoti is short, he manages to deliver his lines with a lot going with his countenances. Femi Brainard is cast as Joseph and does absolutely nothing in this film. Deleke Aroleye is Inspector Gbade, the annoying cop who overdoes everything. (I am particularly appalled by the part where he says “Even if she sees her period, I want to know about it.”)
The Awakening scores major points for its story and special effects, both of which are uncommon and ingenious. It most likely isn’t a movie you’d want to see again, partly because of its length, and also how it drags at different points before finally kicking off. The interpretation of the story also works with its choice of cast, and while it isn’t a perfect movie, it gets a big thumbs-up for effort.
I give it 60%