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‘Sleepless Beauty’ review: Political thriller/torture horror mash works better in theory

Spreads itself too thin.

Sleepless Beauty is an interesting premise that seems to reveal its intentions rather quickly. An English teacher named Mila is captured and taken to what looks to be an abandoned warehouse. She is told she is not allowed to sleep by a mysterious voice over a loudspeaker. The movie is set up to be a torture horror in the vein of Saw. The difference is it provides a much clearer reason as to the why. The opening moments of Sleepless Beauty show a botched assassination attempt against a Russian ambassador. A political conspiracy thriller with a strong horror slant has the potential to be an intriguing story.

Sleepless Beauty has the right torture fiction DNA. There are shades of A Clockwork Orange and 1984 in the movie. It never seems to get the trauma down right, however. After nearly a week, Mila barely seems affected. She is able to physically fight back very capably. She also does not seem as mentally worn down that a person going on 144 hours without sleep should. It takes away from the story from the emotional aspect of the story and instead becomes just a series of segments of a woman being degraded.

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The conspiracy aspect of the film is downplayed after the opening. It seems like a strange decision after how Sleepless Beauty begins. This part of the plot is revisited towards the end. It is a bit of misdirection that works almost too well. During the movie, some may wonder if this thread has been dropped entirely. While the end does not quite sneak up on the audience, it is done nicely.

The pacing of Sleepless Beauty is odd. Since Mila never really looks worse for wear, it is hard to tell how much time has passed. There are title cards that inform what day of confinement it is. Without these, there is little difference between the first day and the last. There is no sense of her losing touch with reality over time which should be an important part of the story being told. Her parents’ search for her is interwoven into the movie and always seems out of place.

There are some nice animated sequences in the film that stand out more than anything else. They also seem there to add padding to the thin story. Sleepless Beauty tries to bring together two genres that are not normally seen together. It is a fine idea in theory that does not completely come together until the last moments of the film. That may have been the intention, but the risk is some viewers may drop off along the way.

Sleepless Beauty is available on digital and on demand November 10.


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