Throughout his expansive career, Clint Eastwood has never been afraid to try something different. He’s directed gripping war films (Letters From Iwo Jima), brutal dramas (), some of the best Western movies ever made (Unforgiven) and some ridiculous rubbish (Firefox). His take on the afterlife and what happens to us when we die was always going to be an interesting experience. However, I don’t think anyone was expecting it to be so dull.
The film follows three separate storylines: Matt Damon’s tortured psychic, George, who’s trying to find a way to live with his ability to talk to the dead, Marie, a French journalist who survives the Asian tsunami, and Marcus, a young London boy, who loses his twin brother in a tragic accident.
Considering the script was written by Frost/Nixon‘s Peter Morgan, you’d expect the film to have something profound to say about death, but instead the film walks a strange line of claiming that there’s scientific evidence for an afterlife, and anyone who thinks there isn’t is simply closed-minded.
It also doesn’t help that the film has an incredible opening. When Marie is caught in the tsunami, Eastwood shows the full brutality of Mother Nature in action. Holiday makers are crushed by cars, buildings are swept away and locals are impaled on electricity pylons. Amongst the chaos, Marie is pummelled by debris until she, albeit briefly, dies. It’s a stunning opening that hooks the audience straight in, but apart from a later scene that recreates the 7/7 bombings, there’s nothing to sustain that initial impact, and the film has nowhere to go but down.
The three separate storylines are also awkwardly edited together, and as a result, we have no idea where the film is actually going. George simply wants to find happiness and, apart from a touching scene with Bryce Dallas Howard, is left to mope and suffer his brother’s desire to monetise his gift. Marie arguably has the most interesting storyline, with her experience prompting her to investigate the possibility of life after death. Her research leads her to writing a book on her experiences, but for a hard-nosed journalist she’s quick to believe some rather dubious ‘science’.
Meanwhile, the plot following the grieving Marcus could have been very touching, but it doesn’t help that George (and his twin brother, Frankie) McLaren are quite appalling actors. Their dialogue is stilted and woodenly delivered, and when acting opposite the likes of Damon and other actors, their inexperience is glaring.
Overall, Hereafter is a fascinating letdown. There are moments of genius, but Eastwood’s inability to have an opinion on the subject matter leaves us with a slow, dull movie that’s nowhere near as deep as it thinks it is.
The triple version set comes with a Blu-ray, DVD and digital copy. The video and sound are excellent (with Clint’s guitar score sounding exceedingly crisp in 5.1 DTS), and the opening tsunami scene making full use of Blu-ray’s technical abilities.
While extras may appear to be a bit light, there are some interesting ‘Focus Points’ where Clint and Damon examine various aspects of the production, from the visual effects to the film’s subject matter. While it’s very fancy, I would have preferred a simple ‘making-of’ documentary to having to watch the film again for these pop-up sections.
The highlight, however, is the excellent and expanded 90-minute documentary, The Eastwood Factor. Covering Clint’s incredible career (and shown in full HD), the film is worth buying for this documentary alone. If you’re a Clint fan, it is worth checking out. However you can always buy it separately.
You can rent or buy Hereafter at Blockbuster.co.uk.