The film begins with a car chase between two people, Russ (Cole Hauser) and Delaine (Jaimie Alexander). When the two cars eventually crash and come to a stop, Russ opens the door of Delaine’s vehicle, reassuring her that everything will be ok. From here, we go back in time to southern America. We hear a voiceover from the town’s Sheriff, Thurmond Fowler (Morgan Freeman), who makes various claims such as life is an open book; you live, you die. Thurmond Fowler also tells us that given his time keeping the law, he’s seen all sorts of crime and that people corrupt easily. Many people enjoy rolling the dice and taking their chances during the heat of a single moment, but some choices can stick to your soul and stay with you forever.
Russ works daily as a stockbroker. Life for him could be better as some of his key clients recently lost large sums of money due to a recent investment opportunity. This opportunity could have earned them loads of money, and the frustration from community members even lands Russ a surprise visit from the local Sheriff, as his brother also invested money and trusted him. The Sherrif gives Russ a polite yet stern warning and suggests staying cautious. Russ soon starts to receive threatening phone calls, with a man asking him, “Where will you be the minute you wake up dead?” After receiving several complaints and threats, Russ is invited to share a meal with his next-door neighbour, Delaine, and he confesses his feelings towards her. However, things are about to become complex as a murder occurs, placing Russ and Delaine as prime suspects. A possible insurance scam begins to surface, and now Sheriff Thurmond is hot on the case to solve the murder and find out who is behind making the threatening phone calls. Is it the same person, or are more people involved in the crime?
The Minute You Wake up Dead is best described as a thriller. The best mystery this film offers is who is behind the threatening phone calls to Russ. Sadly, anything else relating to the other secrets the film sets up is highly predictable from start to finish. Details are given away, meaning that major reveals lack surprise or tension. Character choices are often baffling, including from the highly experienced Sheriff who makes odd judgement calls and performs his investigation poorly. There are also many references to the Bible throughout, and discussions are shared among multiple characters about faith, evil and justice, clearly revealing the story’s critical details.
The biggest standout performance was actress Jaimie Alexander. She often shines at handling various emotions, and some reveals surrounding her character give her a great range to work with. Sadly, Morgan Freeman and Cole Hauser are the weaker aspects here, and, at times, they seemed so vague and emotionless that they could be just reading off a script directly. More painful than some of the performances is the musical score, which cheapens the film dramatically to a midday movie fitted for TV.
Overall, sure, this is a thriller that can help you pass the time. However, while some thrills carried interest, the film is highly predictable in all areas. All suspense and surprises in the storyline lack punch despite the film aiming for a similar vibe to No Country for No Men. Performance-wise, Jaimie Alexander displays an enjoyable range throughout the story. Our leading actors, Morgan Freeman and Cole Hauser, lack energy in their line deliveries. The musical style is off-putting, and cheapens the film dramatically, turning it into what feels like a cheap TV midday film. It’s, all and all, a major disappointment, given the talent and premise.