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Genius Products presents
Wide Awake (2007)

ďHe doesnít know Iím here. Itís a surprise.Ē
- Uk-hwan Gang (Yu Jun-sang)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga   
Published: August 12, 2008

Stars: Kim Myung-min, Yu Jun-sang
Other Stars: Kim Tae-woo, Jung You-Seok, Kim You-mi, Kim Roe-ha
Director: Lee Kyu-maan

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (adult situations, violence)
Run Time: 01h:55m:00s
Release Date: August 12, 2008
UPC: 796019814560
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Anesthesia Awareness is defined as a phenomenon where a patient appears to be under general anesthetic during an operation, but has, in fact, regained consciousness, thus experiencing the entire process of the operation. This is not exactly an experience anyone wants to have, but apparently itís not as uncommon as you think. Itís also, albeit quietly, becoming a common subject in films, both in Hollywood (the Hayden Christensen vehicle, Awake), and in international cinema. One such effort from South Korea is 2007ís Wide Awake, an effective piece that is more thriller than genre film that overcomes an often convoluted plot.

In 1980s South Korea, a young boy undergoes an operation, but isnít properly anesthetized and is able to feel every ounce of pain. 25 years later, those responsible for that horrible event begin to die, one-by-one at the hands of an unknown killer. Dr. Ryu Jae-woo (Kim Myung-min) suspects that the traumatized boy has matured and is seeking revenge for his painful memories, therefore is the serial killer at large. However, Ryu doesnít know who the adult version of this boy is, but he suspects it could be Lee Myeong-suk (Kim Roe-ha), a man who blames Ryu for his wifeís death, Uk-hwan Gang (Yu Jun-sang), who is a seemingly loose cannon visiting from the U.S., or Oh Chi-hoon (Kim Tae-woo), who specializes in hypnosis therapy. While Ryu is trying to solve this mystery to stop the serial killer, he also fears for the safety of his lovely wife, Hee-jin (Kim You-mi).

This is a film that pulls no punches from the get-go, asking a hell of a lot from the audienceís tolerance levels during the first reel. Not only do we see a young child experience anesthesia awareness, but the director makes a point to show a powered saw cutting through his chest cavity while we hear his screaming. Following the opening titles, we flash forward 25 years into the future and see a gruesome dream that just might be the epitome of foreshadowing. While there isnít the amount of gore or terrorizing visuals that the DVDís packaging and artwork might lead us to believe, the subject matter alone makes this a film thatís not for the squeamish.

Its biggest flaw is that languid pacing and a constant jumping from scene-to-scene make for a very confusing watch. You might need a road map to keep track of all of the characters and their relationships with each other. Such confusion lingers for at least the first hour of the picture, but those with patience that stick it out for the second half will be greatly rewarded. The film operates (no pun intended) on two different levels: as a murder mystery, and as an exploration of the anesthesia awareness phenomena. It works best as a mystery though, as we are kept in the dark as to the identity of the killer until the very end, with unpredictable twists and turns keeping us guessing throughout. When it comes to the anesthesia awareness portion of the story, it does its part as a major cog in two key sequences, but, aside from those 20 minutes or so, the film practically forgets about the subject as a major plot point.

Despite the confusing first half, the actors hold their own during the entire film. Kim Myung-min anchors much of the film as Dr. Ryu and Kim You-mi does a fine job with an almost thankless role. First-time director Lee Kyu-maan manages to get the best he can out of his cast, allowing the enigmatic Yu Jun-sang to let loose whenever Uk-hwan Gang is on screen. This is just a solid, eventually engaging effort from all involved that might even warrant a repeat viewing or two.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, this is a solid transfer with plenty of sharp, detailed images. The color scheme is bright and vivid, with nothing in the way of bleeding, while contrast and shadow levels are well-handled. Dirt and grain are kept at a minimum, and there arenít any other blemishes to speak of.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio makes liberal use of the surrounds during the handful of action sequences. Some nice, tight, aggressive bass is also heard during these scenes, while crystal clear dialogue is a constant that works perfectly with the overall mix.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
3 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
2 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Actor Interviews
Extras Review: The extras are surprisingly plentiful, beginning with Memory Returned: The Making of Wide Awake. This 38-minute piece is a comprehensive look at the behind-the-scenes aspects of the film, blending cast and crew interviews with on-set footage to give us a great look at what went into its production.

Next, we get a 13-minute featurette focusing on production design, via an interview with production designer Ji-U Kim. She does a great job shedding some light on the various locations that the film was shot at.

10 minutes of actor interviews are up next, with all of the main players giving their two cents worth as to their respective roles.

Anesthesia Awareness: About Interoperational Awareness is a five-minute piece that looks at the subject that the central plot of Wide Awake revolves around.

Lastly, we get 12 minutes worth of deleted scenes (three separate scenes) that include some rather graphic sexual content.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

If youíre looking for a scientific, thought-provoking story on the subject of anesthesia awareness, youíre not going to get it from South Koreaís Wide Awake. While thereís some information about it before the opening credits, thatís about as in-depth as this film gets in regards to that spooky topic. However, if youíre in the market for a deep, twisty murder mystery, then this is more than the movie for you and Geniusí nice DVD effort makes it even more of a no-brainer of a rental.


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