Copyright © 2014 by Clarius Entertainment
After an accident, Christine Lucas (Nicole Kidman) suffers from a rare form of amnesia where she is unable to store memories for more than a day. Each day she awake with only intact memories up until her 20s. She is sought out by one Dr Nasch (Mark Strong) to help her remember what happened a decade ago. He tells her not to inform her husband, Ben (Colin Firth) about their meetings. As she pieces together her findings bit by bit, Christine realises that one of them could have been the perpetrator for her current state.
It must be a nuisance to wake up everyday believing you are still in your 20s when the next 20 years of your life have come and gone with no memory of living it. While we try to forget the most trying period of our existence, there is plenty to revel if you are at the peak of your game and in a seeming ideal marriage. That is what our amnesiac protagonist supposedly has before her fatal ‘accident’ (never good in a whodunit – you will know what I mean if you have read the book).
After acquiring the rights from writer, S.J. Watson, Ridley Scott has rounded up a talented cast and a budding writer/director to translate the literary verses of Watson’s bestseller. Rowan Joffé who is best known for his writing credits in ‘28 Weeks Later’ (horror sequel to ‘28 Days Later’) and ‘The American’ (a George Clooney European-themed thriller) knows what his actors are capable of and allows all three leads (Kidman is as stunning as usual only because she anchors majority of the film) to usher viewers of each person’s motivations (or motives?).
So captivating by the winsome threesome’s persona that we tend to overlook Joffé’s experience as a director. No doubt he gets the job done adequately but does nothing more to set himself apart from the rest. Thanks largely to Kidman’s willingness to bare it all (her vulnerability and grievances are on full display here, another winning variation of her Oscar-nominated role in ‘Rabbit Hole’ besides flashing a little more flesh than usual) and Firth’s flair for the understated yet unsettling help move the plot rapidly to its conclusion (not nearly as satisfying as its promising start).
If not for Kidman and Firth’s natural on-screen chemistry (second collaboration since ‘The Railway Man’), you probably would erase this unimaginative outing the very next day. The problem lies in Joffé wanting to keep proceedings linear and may have been concerned about the story’s consistency should he employ a less orthodox technique. What ‘Memento’ achieved effortlessly is an uphill battle for ‘Sleep’ to keep our eyes wide open.
While Strong hardly missteps in his movie choices (he even came out unscathed from the misguided ‘Green Lantern’) and is pivotal to Christine’s recovery, he is way underused for a person of his caliber. As good as he can be in the constraints of time, he could have been excellent. As the selfless doctor who has taken upon himself to assist (and a rare occasion Strong is heroic), Joffé opts not to pursue any further in the neurologist’s work and growing attraction towards his patient.
The angle would have provided a change in dynamics over Christine’s lopsided relationship. After the abrupt omission of Dr Nasch, she is left on her own to fit the missing pieces of her violent trauma. Depending on which side you are on, you will either salute its slightly ludicrous account of events or wish for a reset before you go to sleep. I for one will not be dozing off just yet.
Rated R for some brutal violence and language