Saturday, May 14, 2011

"Top of the Queue Review" Hereafter

"A life that's all about death is no life at all" is a quote heard early in the film Hereafter.  My own quote after seeing this movie would be "a movie about life after death where the story has a pretty meaningless conclusion is no movie at all."

Now I have to commend director Clint Eastwood.  In the past decade he has churned out about a movie a year and most of them have been pretty good dramas.  His movies have been set in various periods, dealt with a wide range of topics including true crime cases, Nelson Mandela and the 1995 Rugby World Cup and the battle of Iwo Jima.  I've actually liked all of these movies but then he made Hereafter.

Now maybe the point of the film went over my head, but let me give you the brief plot highlights for this film that encompasses three seemingly unrelated stories:   French woman Marie survives being swept away in a tsunami while on vacation in Thailand but has a near death experience before she awakens that she can't stop thinking about; 12 year old London boy Marcus is unable to cope now that his twin brother has been killed in a car accident and tries to find a way to speak to him; and in San Francisco, George, a former professional psychic, keeps finding himself pulled back into his old profession even though he has tried desperately to move on with his life so he doesn't have to deal with the intense emotional connection that comes with talking with the dead.

Cecile de France and Matt Damon
I'm a big fan of movies that present characters in different parts of the world with unrelated stories that you know will eventually all come together before the film is over.  So, when Hereafter shifted between these three very different story lines I was intrigued with the possibilities of what would come next and how they would ultimately intertwine.  All three stories are given equal weight in the film and the three leads couldn't be better.  Matt Damon as George, Cecile de France as Marie and Frankie McLaren as Marcus all exhibit perfectly the sense of suffering, and wonder that one would imagine comes with dealing with the afterlife.

However, the film is 2 hour and 9 minutes long and could have dealt with some significant trimming to make it more compelling and not so slow going,  Eastwood's gentle touch works effectively in many of the emotional scenes but the story just doesn't come together to effectively portray an ending that does justice to the characters.  In fact, the "readings" that Damon's character gives aren't anywhere near emotionally intense and draining as he mentions the main reason why he stopped doing them and he so easily agrees to do them that it really goes at odds with what his character has said before.  And, as much as I liked Bryce Dallas Howard as a woman who George meets in a cooking class, the way their relationship unfolds and ultimately concludes is so by the book that it is just another example of how the script for this film isn't anything special.

Frankie McLaren
There is a great effects scene in the beginning of the film of the tsunami which makes you really realize how quick and traumatic an event it is, but the rest of the film is dull and long.

But again, maybe I'm just not smart enough to understand what Eastwood and writer Peter Morgan were getting at.

If you were thinking of putting this in your Netflix queue or a possible Redbox rental, consider yourself warned.

The Tsunami sequence -

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