Posted by sean On October - 22 - 2010

Matt Damon has a lot on his mind in Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter

What happens to us when we die?  That may not be something we all think about, but it’s apparently on Clint Eastwood’s mind.  Hereafter follows three characters affected by death in a Crash-like narrative, but it fails to pull at any emotional strings with arcs that were too lifeless even for a movie about death.

Eastwood’s direction provides some interesting cinematography with the world filtered through a gloomy window for much of the film, but beyond that, his skill as a director falters.  Each of the three storylines never progress smoothly as they intercut with each other like puzzle pieces that don’t fit, but this is also at the fault of Peter Morgan, writer of The Queen, Frost/Nixon.  He didn’t write characters that the audience could invest in for two hours, and Eastwood didn’t do anything to fix this.

The film spends so much time trying to explain the afterlife and ground it in reality that the emotional connection it strived for is completely lost.  Instead of debating the existence of an afterlife, the film beats the audience over the head with the certainty of heaven.  One scene even has a doctor saying her medical records “prove” there’s an afterlife.  How, the film never goes into, but it repeatedly tries to argue this when there’s no argument to make.

Surrounding this is a look into the tainted lives of people after their brief encounters with death and filling these roles are some of the stalest performances in a drama.  Cécile De France wanders around France like a hollow stick figure as Marie LeLay, a woman who has a near-death experience during a tsunami.  As a tough political journalist, she’s quick to abandon her job in search of answers to her experience and does so in the most passive manner possible.   Matt Damon, in a monotone role, plays George Lonegan, a psychic who refuses to speak to the dead for others.  He repeatedly insists his ability is a curse and wants a normal life away from it, but he never shows any fear and anger when he does do it.  Damon never feels present in his scenes, and every time he says “it’s not a gift, it’s a curse,” you want to call “bullshit.”  Frankie and George McLaren play twin brothers with one getting hit by a car and the other ending up in foster care.  The surviving twin tries to cope, and he does so by stalking the streets of London like a zombie searching for psychics to feed his need for closure.  McLaren sheds the occasionally tear or two, but he rarely shows any capacity of human emotion even when he’s standing over his brother’s body.  Makes you wonder if Eastwood casted him and his brother just because they’re twins.

Eastwood’s take on the afterlife leaves you neither convinced, intrigued, nor caring.  You can suspend disbelief in the supernatural, but you still have to live with the flat acting from the leads.  The film leaves such a bland aftertaste and crushes your heart only because Eastwood, Morgan, and some of the actors are capable of so much more, and it’s a damn shame to see them sell themselves short.

In our three liquor rating of One Bourbon, one liquor, and one beer the Hereafter rated a flat Beer.


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