Hereafter: Movie Review
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Time magazine calls Matt Damon's performance in Clint Eastwood's new spiritual thriller, Hereafter, “marvelous”. Others describe it as “enthralling” (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times) and “amazing” (NPR). Just one question: what movie were they watching?
A film that asks what lies beyond this life, Hereafter is indeed provocative and thought-provoking. However, it’s too far gone. The two-hour long film feels like three, and its ending is contrived and unfulfilling. Hereafter does address the big issues of mortality and grief within the context of three lives in turmoil that fatedly intersect. Yet, it resolves with a godless approach to life beyond.
The Movie in a Minute
George (Matt Damon) has the power to communicate with the dead. His so-called gift is actually a "curse", as his natural life falls into disrepair when he connects with life beyond this world. Marie (Cécile de France), a French journalist, discovers she has recurring visions after almost dying. Marcus (George McLaren and Frankie McLaren) and his twin brother live in London where they take care of their addicted mother, until a horrific tragedy strikes the family. All three lives intersect as they attempt to process their reality and what happens after death.
"The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" ... in Hereafter
Clint Eastwood is a cinematic icon. His early years acting has only been eclipsed by his directorial talent (i.e., Mystic River, Letters From Iwo Jima). And though some critics may be quick to praise Hereafter because of the name next to "director" in the credits, the film does not warrant it. The ending is too quickly resolved and feels like the end of a romantic story, incongruent with the rest of the movie.
Topically speaking the issue of life after death is one that should be explored for the sake of after-movie conversation when people of faith can share the Truth. But, the length to which the story goes into the worlds of psychics and communication with the dead only speculates and misleads. It exposes some psychic readers as hokey, but illuminates George (Matt Damon) as someone with a real, spiritual connection with those who have passed on. Marie’s journey starts after her visions cause her to seek the advice of a scientist who believes she saw the hereafter when she “died”. Religious responses to life after death are heard twice by Marcus via videos on the Internet (one from a Muslim and the other from a Christian who says that the answer lies in Jesus Christ). These claims are quickly dismissed by the boy, along with a string of off-the-wall experiences he has as he processes his grief.
Matt Damon, of such successes as The Bourne series and Good Will Hunting, is adequate in the role of loner George. But, the talented actor's performance seems to lack the engaging quality that this supernaturally advanced character requires. The young actors (George and Frankie McLaren), who portray Marcus/Jason, fulfill these parts well. Their depressed, grief-stricken looks seem almost natural to them. Their character's sullen demeanor slightly turns toward one of desperation. Belgian actress Cécile de France, who plays Marie, is the dramatic point this film should have dug into more. In fact, screenwriter Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon, The Queen) should have focused on Marie’s story or George and Marcus’ stories. Having all three storylines converged just didn’t work in the time allotted.
Offensive content: Disaster and accident images contribute to the film’s PG-13 rating. In fact, Hereafter’s opening scenes show the utter carnage of the Southeast Asian tsunami from 2004. Though the special effects and cinematography are incredibly good in these sequences as a giant tidal wave crushes the coast showing just how quickly life can be taken, it is emotionally difficult to watch. A few other tragic incidents occur during the film as well. Also, during a bathing scene, Marie’s bare chest is seen through soapy water. And moviegoers will hear brief strong language, including one use of the f-word.
In the End
Hereafter attempts to answer life and death questions, but fails. Its cinematic grandeur is captivating and the thoughts it provokes are noteworthy, but that’s all lost in the film's weaknesses.
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