Mar 252011
 

Unlike other average films I’ve come across over the years, there are definitely reasons to see Hereafter, if nothing else for the performances. It is unfortunate that the screenplay needed another draft or two to shore up issues with the plot since Clint Eastwood direction is well done to go along with Stern’s beautiful cinematography.

 


Hereafter (2010)


REVIEW NAVIGATION

The Movie
| Special Features | Video Quality | Audio Quality | Overall

 

Genre(s): Drama
Warner Bros. | PG13 – 129 min. – $35.99 | March 15, 2011

 

MOVIE INFO:
Directed by:
Clint Eastwood
Writer(s):
Peter Morgan (written by)
Cast:
Matt Damon, Cecile de France, Jay Mohr, Bryce Dallas Howard

Theatrical Release Date: October 22, 2010

DISC INFO:
Features:
Focus Points, Documentary, DVD Copy, Digital Copy
Number of Discs:
2

Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video:
1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles:
English SDH, French, Spanish
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC


THE MOVIE – 2.5/5

Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter, written by Academy Award nominee Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon, The Queen), tackles the eternal question of life after death… from a distance.

This is very much a character study rather than some supernatural drama following three characters from three different countries, dealing with the afterlife in diverse ways:

George Lonegan (MATT DAMON) lives a meager life in San Francisco. He makes minimal amount of money driving a fork lift and lives in a small, unexciting apartment. We first meet George when his brother (JAY MOHR) brings over an old friend (RICHARD KIND in cameo #1) because before George’s unassuming current life, he made a living as a medium or reader, the ability to contact the spiritual realm and deliver messages to their loved ones. He stopped doing this as the readings would only bring sorrow to him personally, preferring the lonely life, drifting asleep every night to the audio readings of Charles Dickens’ novels.

Later, he decides to take up cooking as perhaps a hobby, taking a class where he meets Melanie (BRYCE DALLAS HOWARD, cameo #2) and the two forms a bond which is threatened when she learns of his abilities. He reluctantly gives her a reading which only leads to unfortunate consequences. This only further cements his lonely existence and why he tells his brother early on in one of the most clichéd lines of the film that “It’s not a gift. It’s a curse!” To be fair, it sounded far better coming from Damon’s mouth than Tobey Maguire’s…

In our second storyline, we follow twin brothers Marcus and Jason (FRANKIE and GEORE MCLAREN) who live with their neglectful and alcoholic mother (LYNDSEY MARSHALL) who is under scrutiny by child welfare officials. Tragedy strikes when Jason is attacked by street thugs and as he tried to escape, he runs into the road and is hit by a van and is killed. Marcus was on the phone with Jason and knew something was wrong. He springs out of the house and gets to the scene to see his brother dead.

This starts a chain effect where his mother decides she needs to finally get clean for his sake so he moves in to a foster home. As any adolescent person might do when confronted with the death of a loved one, he begins questioning life and goes on a personal journey to find out about life after death from different perspectives.

Our third story centers Marie Lelay (CECILE DE FRANCE), a French activist journalist who is top of her game. She’s dating her show’s producer, has a good life until the tsunami changed everything for her. The near death experience sends her on her own little journey which leads to several paths. One is that her colleagues who once respected her now question her sanity as she begins talking about the afterlife and spirituality. Marie decides to write a book about her experience, interviewing a doctor (MARTHE KELLER) who has insights into life after death.

While some have loved the movie for the characters and story, I for one felt disconnected from it all. The movie features some of the greatest acting in one of the most underwhelming picture I’ve encountered. Matt Damon gives a believable and harrowing performance while the McLaren twins (Frankie and George) possible gave the best performances of the entire film. And for her part, French actress Cecile De France completes the third story with multiple layers of emotions, seeing her change from the beginning and where she ends up at the finish.

On the surface, Clint Eastwood has put together a fine movie with great award worthy performances. The visual effects during the opening scene, which are not all that common in an Eastwood film, is pretty damn good and the look and vibe of the movie is all top notch with dark and moody elements reminiscent at times of Mystic River. However, even though all of those pieces fit so well together, the fact you have a movie about characters dealing with death and it carries little to no emotional impact on me as a viewer is telling. At no point watching Hereafter was I actually moved or pulled into the lives these characters were leading and instead felt like a spectator waiting for the next scene all the way to the end sequence which isn’t awful but entirely too convenient, but that is a minor point to the screenplay.

Peter Morgan’s screenplay is easily the weakest link and if it had been given an extra pass or two, perhaps by another writer, I think Hereafter may very well have been a fantastic picture instead of an average one with missed potential. One thing I know some criticize Morgan for is that he’s nondescript about the afterlife but I don’t mind that at all since the movie is about three people who each experience loss in different ways in their own lives, not about whether or not there is life after death. Where the screenplay falters for me is that it although there are three separate but similar stories going on, I never got a sense of movement and felt entirely bored with each passing minute. Was this Peter Morgan’s fault or Clint Eastwood for not appropriately pacing it? I assume a bit of both on that end.

Overall, Hereafter wasted such a great opportunity especially since we get three great performances, a finely photographed movie by cinematographer Tom Stern (shot every Eastwood directed film since 2002’s Blood Work) and a truly thrilling scene to start out the film, but the screenplay takes it all down a level or two with a story I just could not get in to.

SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.25/5

The Blu-ray comes with a standard matted slip cover.

Focus Points (TRT 42:26; HD) is a feature you can play with the movie or watch the individual featurettes either separately or a play all option.

+ Tsunami! Recreating a Disaster (6:33) – Watch as the visual effects team puts together the opening and important sequence in the film. We get to see the effects breakdown and just what goes into filming such a scene.

+ Is There Life After Death? (3:58) takes on the heavy question from the perspective of the cast (Matt Damon, Cecile de France, Bryce Dallas Howard, etc.) and crew (Clint Eastwood, Kathleen Kennedy, Peter Morgan, etc.) and whether or not they believe in the afterlife.

+ Clint on Casting (7:23) is more interview footage with Eastwood and others on how he casts a film and what the right actor/actress brings to a film.

+ Delving into the Hereafter (6:00) goes into the real life mediums, readers and skeptics and also gives the perspective from the cast and crew on those people.

+ Twin Bonding (5:53) centers on the interesting bond that twins have even when separated. We get a unique look at the subject from producer Kathleen Kennedy and her twin as well as a couple of twin filmmakers.

+ French Speaking French (1:45) is another self-explanatory featurette where the filmmakers wanted to make sure to keep it accurate.

+ Why the White Light (3:29) – Here we get different points of view on the white light from both a spiritual realm and a more skeptical one.

+ Hereafter’s Locations – Casting the Silent Characters (3:03) examines the location scouting – from London to Paris and San Francisco – and the importance it plays for the film.

+ The Eastwood Experience (4:17) is a short but intimate look at Clint Eastwood where the cast and crew give their thoughts on the veteran actor and filmmaker.

The Eastwood Factor: Extended Version (1:28:27; HD) is an insightful look into the actor turned filmmaker and his ever expansive career. This was originally released separately on DVD but now available in high-def. This was narrated by Morgan Freeman.

The set also includes a DVD/Digital Copy combo disc.


VIDEO – 4.5/5

Hereafter is presented in its original 2.40 aspect ratio. The 1080p high-def picture looks solid ranging from some good black levels as there are many scenes that Eastwood shades in shadows to the brighter shots like in the beginning during the tsunami and towards the end which show off some color range. The detail level on the faces is excellent and during the darker scenes I didn’t notice any instances of pixilation or aliasing.

AUDIO – 3.75/5

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track meanwhile sounds good but since there really is only one ‘action’ scene in the beginning, you’re not going to get a wide range of sounds to give a test for your system. Otherwise it’s just a nice track where dialogue sounds crisp and clear and Clint Eastwood’s ho-hum score comes through each channel well enough.



OVERALL – 2.75/5

Unlike other average films I’ve come across over the years, there are definitely reasons to see Hereafter, if nothing else for the performances. It is unfortunate that the screenplay needed another draft or two to shore up issues with the plot since Clint Eastwood direction is well done to go along with Stern’s beautiful cinematography.

The Blu-ray itself has a nice looking video, OK-to-good audio and features that are a tad better than previous Eastwood releases yet still only scratches the surface. For Eastwood fans, you do get “The Eastwood Factor” in high-def so there’s a decent bonus.

 

 

Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Published: 03/25/2011

 

Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2.

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