There have been great films like The Matrix regarding the manipulation and rift between perception and reality. Consciousness is an unfathomable mystery that science hasn’t been able to explain. There is great intrigue, and perhaps this is tied to the new advancement in AI. Awareness, the new film by Daniel Benmayor, is hell bent on creating a narrative that would make us understand that perception creates reality. It’s indeed an interesting idea. The characters are in a world that reminds us of one of the 1980s Hollywood films. A teen-ish boy, an alcoholic father, and their existence in isolation on a boat. The plot seems to have taken memorable elements of The Terminator and The Matrix, which were then mixed together to prepare a decent concoction. There is a line in this film echoing the famous Schwarzenegger line, ‘Come with me if you want to live’. The film establishes the characters nicely in a slick fashion, never taking too much time. Benmayor is interested in first quickly getting the audience hooked on the idea that the protagonist in the film has superhuman powers. This sets up expectations for the film. Like Trinity taking the superhuman leap off of the roof in the first 5 minutes of The Matrix, it tells us that this is not a movie about ordinary folks.
The kid in question is Ian, who seems to have the power to make people believe in a fake reality by manipulating their perceptions. He is told not to ‘stand out’ as that is always a bad thing. Immediately, there is a woman who sees the incident of Ian ‘standing out’ from the CCTV footage and thus begins the great chase. There was an entire organization on the lookout for him. The ominous tones suggest that they want to take him out, but the real threat seems to be a suave gentleman who is also after Ian. The question is, who is going to get to him first. There is also the question of Ian’s real identity. He had recurring visions of him sitting with his mother in a limbo-like room, with just white spreading across infinity. There, he saw his mother happy, but the dream always ended with her screaming. What happened? How did he end up here with Vicente, the alcoholic father? These questions keep us hooked but soon they too subside and the thrill of the chase takes over.
The execution of the fight sequences have to be the film’s calling card, and it’s one of the things that worked in its favor. But only partially. Some of the fight sequences are very well done, but others are too slow. They made the film look more artificial than it actually is. Some events seemed jaded, like the fight sequence at the stairs. The characters in the film are not that complex, and Awareness is happy to just stay at the surface, never trying to dig deeper. There could have been an attempt to touch the concept organically through the characters, rather than just superficially. Ian’s emotional arc is too predictable at times. The other characters in the film serve the plot very strictly. There is a romantic angle in the film as well, but that doesn’t add any depth to the story. In a high-falutin way, the story is about lovelessness, but that may just be my reading. I tried to fill in the places where this film just became dependent on action and not the subtext of the scene. The twists and turns were added by someone called ‘The Mule’ and a macguffin related to someone named Kominsky in Warsaw. The film has the vibe of an adventure film, where there are only a few moments where the characters can relax. I personally have a fondness for this type of storytelling. The problem with Awareness is that it promised me something too great in the very beginning, which it couldn’t pull off.
The performance by Enzo Calleja, playing Ian, is frustrating in most parts, as he seems to fall back on cliche when explaining himself or expressing his anger. There is Pedro Alonso playing Vicente, who people might remember from Money Heist as the actor who played ‘Berlin’ in the show. He doesn’t get much screen time but serves his purpose in the third act. The overall problem is the ungroundedness of the acting choices. The robotic and cold way characters sometimes speak in the film in isn’t able to engage you after a point, as the setting is kept very contemporary. It’s not that we have crossed over into an alternate reality. I guess the tone and concept of the film made the makers commit to a very serious style, which ultimately made the film a little dispirited. Humor was one thing that seemed lacking. Even in the ‘resting’ phases, there wasn’t much in the performance or the dialogue that could add a little humor to the scenes. That could have tempered the heavy tone of this film, which became tiring after a while. Or perhaps, after some lighthearted moments, the film’s overly sentimental scenes could have impacted us a lot more. The characters were too infused with the plot, and hence the actors couldn’t bring the characters to life, it seemed. The special effects and the choice of playing with the image in scenes depicting Ian’s heightened state were definitely brave. The shaking images are disorienting, but they add to the characters’ state of mind.
Awareness seemed to have a great concept but gave the feeling that it was too hasty in building its world and its characters. The idea had to flow smoothly, but here the idea just fell through. It’s as if the characters were hollow and the plot just didn’t stick anywhere. The action sequences were carefully crafted, and it was clear that they were given a lot of importance. Another feature that’s emerging in cinematic storytelling is the ‘the little bit of everything’ approach. Awareness is aware of the opportunities when it comes to making action sequences look like they were taken out of John Wick and when the plot points are a reference to Fight Club. I have already mentioned that The Terminator and The Matrix seemed pivotal in not only the concept but also the beats of the story. A concept has to risk falling flat on its face, and perhaps then it can be strengthened and function on its own without the crutches. Awareness clearly skipped the process or was too hasty with its execution. It could have been a thought-provoking film but was reduced to just being an action sci-fi entertainer.