Eastwood attempts to delve into the Hereafter

The Spectrum

Movie: Hereafter

Release Date: Oct. 22

Grade: C

The afterlife is a subject that human beings have speculated about for thousands of years. Like many of life's mysteries, it fascinates and baffles the mind, and people are constantly in search of what happens when a person dies.

One would think that such an elusive and fascinating topic would lend itself wonderfully to the big screen. However, Hereafter, the newest film from renowned director Clint Eastwood (Invictus), shows promise but ultimately falls flat.

The film centers on three characters from different parts of the world. The opposing characters' stories seem unrelated until they are hurriedly and forcibly interconnected by a series of events.

The film begins promisingly with an amazing sequence of a tsunami devastating an Indonesian town. French TV journalist Marie Lelay (Cecile de France, Gardiens de l'ordre) is nearly drowned in the catastrophe and subsequently has a near-death experience in which she has fuzzy visions of the beyond.

Eastwood does a good job of including this visually astonishing CGI intro in a realistic and logical manner that could easily seem ridiculous in the otherwise serious and dramatic film.

George (Matt Damon, Green Zone) is a reluctant psychic who has left a career as a medium, despite the urging by his persistent brother (Jay Mohr, Gary Unmarried) to make use of his otherworldly gifts, in order to pursue a more normal life.

The third, and best, story is centered around a young English boy named Marcus (Frankie and George McLaren) who loses his twin brother and then embarks on a journey to find a way to communicate with his brother in the afterlife.

Eastwood seems to be navigating his way through foreign territory with this film. He deviates from his simplistic style of linear storytelling and replaces it with a messy, overdone and lifeless plot.

The characters, while well portrayed, lack fully developed storylines and fail to successfully connect with the audience. The Frenchwoman, Marie, fails to engage the viewers emotionally; George, while engaging, lacks an appealing storyline; and Marcus, whose story is the most interesting, remains frustratingly inaccessible and emotionless until the very end of the film.

The tone of the film quickly moves from promising – the stunning opening sequence – to depressingly slow and unexciting.

Damon makes his best effort to revive the film and accomplishes the difficult task of realistically portraying the psychological toll that psychic abilities have had on his character. His understated acting style actually works well in this format, and his character breathes some life into the otherwise dead plot.

Unfortunately, even he cannot save the film.

Hereafter is essentially a film that promises but doesn't deliver. Audiences will find themselves sitting through 90 depressingly slow minutes of character-driven plot only to find that the story goes nowhere.

Screenwriter Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon) attempts to connect the stories of the three characters in the last 30 minutes, but it seems as if he was trying too hard to force some kind of unity within the film. It doesn't work.

The film's ending is just as anticlimactic as the rest of the film and leaves the viewers with more questions than they originally started with.

Hereafter is a film with too much fluff and not enough substance. It wants to be deep but instead comes off as contrived and not terribly insightful. Viewers can only hope that this is merely a stumbling block on Eastwood's otherwise promising directorial "hereafter."

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