Frankie McLaren, George McLaren
- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © Warner Bros.
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
lint Eastwood’s speedy directing style has been well documented over the years, but after recent misfires like “Changeling,” “Invictus,” and his latest movie, the supernatural drama “Hereafter,” he might want to take a step back and reevaluate his methods before beginning his next project, because he’s starting to get a little sloppy. “Hereafter” is probably the guiltiest of the bunch, because for a movie that asks its audience to cast away any skepticism about its subject matter, it doesn’t do a very good job of giving us any concrete answers, even though its foot is firmly planted on one side of the discussion.
The film opens with the kind of massive set piece you normally wouldn’t expect from a director like Eastwood – an ambitious recreation of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed over 200,000 people. French journalist Marie Lelay (Cécile De France) is one of the unlucky victims to get swallowed up in the tidal wave, but amazingly, she survives, only to become obsessed with the visions she witnessed during her near-death experience. For San Francisco native George Lonegan (Matt Damon), it’s a feeling he’s all too familiar with, turning his back on a lucrative career as a psychic in order to lead a normal life. But when his older brother (Jay Mohr) tries to resurrect his career as a medium, George goes on vacation to England, where he crosses paths with Marie and a kid named Marcus (George and Frankie McLaren) who’s trying to get in touch with his twin brother after he was killed in a car accident.
Yes, it’s yet another film in the same vein as “Crash” and “Babel” where the lives of all the main characters intersect – in this case, at the London Book Fair. But the problem with “Hereafter” is that none of the stories are strong enough to keep us interested while we wait for the big crossover conclusion. They might have worked better as their own individual movies, but each one is so thinly plotted and devoid of any real emotion that it’s no wonder they had to string three of them together to make a complete film. It’s certainly not Peter Morgan’s finest hour, who includes pointless subplots – like one where Damon’s character hits it off with a cute woman (Bryce Dallas Howard) at a cooking class – that go nowhere and only serve to pad the unnecessarily long runtime.
There is some humor injected later in the story that reinvigorates the movie a little, but the events leading up to it are so gloomy and flat that many people will have already tuned out. The gorgeous Cécile De France fares the best of the main actors, as her character is not only the most interesting, but the only one who doesn’t come across as completely lifeless, while Frankie and George McLaren are so terrible that every time they deliver a line, it takes you out of the movie. As for Matt Damon, it’s not exactly his most flattering role, but that has more to do with the character than his performance.
In fact, George’s presence in the film pretty much negates the whole point of the movie, which poses the question of mortality and what happens to us when we die. George might not know the definitive answer, but the fact that he can converse with the dead confirms that, at least in the world of “Hereafter,” there’s something resembling an afterlife. Had the movie instead focused solely on people like Marie and Marcus coming to their own conclusions about the possibility of life after death, it might have been more interesting, but George’s psychic gift makes any kind of spiritual journey meaningless. And that’s where “Hereafter” fails as a movie – not only in its foolish belief that the audience will jump on board with no questions asked, but that it cares so little about its characters that it doesn’t even give them the chance to figure anything out on their own.