Awake, Sky Atlantic | TV reviews, news & interviews
Awake, Sky Atlantic
Inception-lite US drama packs a compelling emotional punch
Try this for high concept. Following a fatal car accident involving his family, LA cop Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs) gains access to two parallel realities. Every time he goes to sleep, he crosses between the two – in one, his wife survived the crash while his son died; in the other, he’s a widower but his son lived. The two realities parallel one another in every respect: in each he has a different therapist, a different stereotypical sidekick, and a different murder to solve.
The procedural element is the least successful aspect of what’s otherwise a compelling pilot with a unique emotional hook. The notion of intermittently grieving and regaining lost loved ones crackles with the sort of strange, uncanny poignancy that only sci-fi can achieve, and Isaacs’ nuanced, muscular turn speaks anguished volumes with minimal spectacle.
Episode director David Slade (most notably of Twilight: Eclipse fame, more respectably of Hard Candy fame) seems to have been hired, as is frequently the case with pilots, to make a distinctive visual mark. The device of using two different colour schemes to differentiate Britten’s realities – the world in which his wife survives is filmed in warmer hues, while his son is relegated to a cooler palette of greens and greys – is perhaps not the least predictable choice, but there’s a flinty, shadowed quality to Slade’s visuals that makes for a more haunting 45 minutes than might otherwise be the case.
Moreover, there is intent to the warm/cool divide – in their scenes together Britten and his wife are close, connected, the loss of their son seemingly having brought them together rather than isolated them, whereas he and his son (Dylan Minnette) are rather emotionally estranged. Given that these dynamics are bound to shift in the upcoming weeks, it’s promising to have them so confidently drawn from the outset.
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
Vicki McClure takes charge in pulsating showdown to round off gripping series
How did all the roads in the ancient world end up leading to Rome?
Sympathetic documentary throws new light on a woefully familiar topic
How the Bard has become part of our collective movie memory
Racism, mutual mistrust and murder in fraught Swedish drama
Slightly wearisome jog down memory lane with the royal home movies
She was the most gifted comedian of her generation, male or female
Veteran entertainers recall the music that changed their lives
Posh doc about East Anglian farmer clinging to the wreckage provides blameless fun
Franglais 'tecs battle baffling epidemic of Euro-crime
Nick Robinson tiptoes cautiously through the minefield of Britain's relations with Europe
Seven-disc collection of the prophetic Seventies sci-fi show