After the abominably banal Oscar-bait that was last year’s Invictus, I was ready for Clint Eastwood to attempt something new. Enter Hereafter, a supernatural drama starring Matt Damon as a psychic and a trailer featuring a tsunami of 2012-level absurdity. What follows is a fairly provoking work capped off by an ending that will not only frustrate, but make one rethink if it was all worth it.
Scripted by Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon) we follow three separate stories, each dealing with death and the afterlife. The first is Marie (Cécile De France), a French journalist who experiences a horrific brush with death. There is George (Matt Damon), a dock worker and once-practicing psychic. Then we have Marcus (Frankie McLaren), a London child who loses someone close and is on a journey to deal with the aftermath.
The initial intrigue is with each story strand so peculiar and wildly different from the others, one wonders how they can possibly connect. This should be your first step in preparing for disappointment. The connection that eventually occurs is out-of-this-world ridiculous, culminating in an inadequate mess.
There are stellar scenes along the way, which makes the finale failure exceedingly more of a heartbreak. Damon meets Bryce Dallas Howard‘s character at a nighttime Italian cooking class. In the highlight of the film they share a sexually charged exchange that is alluring to behold, but ultimately leads to nothing.
We learn Damon has powers to see those who have passed on in the afterlife. Explained through brain surgery given as a child, he just has the gift. Don’t question it, because you won’t get any answers. His older brother, played by Jay Mohr, encourages him to return to this craft after Damon is terrified of the inner consequences.
On the other side of the world, journalist Marie is seeing the same visions of the afterlife and debates writing a book about her ordeal. In London, Marcus is on a quest for answers about death. His arc is initially promising, especially when a much-needed underground jolt comes along. Soon after, it quickly falls into a black-hole void of emotion, much like the other strands.
Looking back, I’m racking my brain trying to figure out what Eastwood’s intention was. For a commentary on the afterlife and coming to terms with your own mortality, it’s handled poorly with ridiculous CG visions. It never delves past surface-level ideas of wanting to know more about those who passed on. If it was about predetermined destiny as Eastwood suggests, it is a laughably cliche exercise that was uncomfortable to behold. Wrapped up like a cheap romantic-comedy, it’s more than ludicrous.
If Eastwood could have lived up to the few engaging scenes and delivered some sort of worthwhile message, the film’s journey may have been worth it. Instead we get a chillingly awkward final act that leaves one in a bewildered state of contempt.
5 out of 10
Hereafter opens on October 22nd.
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