I haven’t seen a film as bad as Hereafter in a long time. And it’s surprising. Clint Eastwood behind the camera, Matt Damon in front, it makes you wonder how the film could turn out to be so terrible. Dealing with death and life after death, what could have been an intriguing and powerful film, turns into a two hour snooze fest. The film misses the mark on just about every count and aside from one very well done sequence, there isn’t much worth seeing here. Now that Hereafter has hit Blu-Ray, it’s time to revisit it. Why exactly did the film flop so hard? Read on and find out.
Hereafter is a mess. An absolute mess where nothing works and everything fails. The film literally peaks in its opening sequence, which is a very well done and rather breathtaking Tsunami scene. The effects are great and it’s staged perfectly. Unfortunately, what follows is a lethargic, slow moving and relatively lifeless film that will have you looking at your watch more than you would hope to.
The film covers three story lines, which really don’t have anything to do with each other. Aside from the overarching theme of death and the afterlife, and an unconvincing and arbitrary ending where all three characters insignificantly cross paths, the three story arcs are pretty much stand alone.
First we have George, played apathetically by Matt Damon. George is a psychic who can speak to the dead. He has gained this ‘power’ due to a surgery he had when he was younger where he died a few times on the table but eventually pulled through. Ever since then he has been able to communicate with the dead. Entirely believable, right? George has retired from the profession though, he doesn’t want to talk to the dead anymore. “It’s not a gift, it’s a curse!” he cries, as his brother (Jay Mohr) tries to persuade him to continue. True happiness doesn’t find George until he enrolls in a cooking class and meets Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard). When he starts to fall for her, he tries harder than ever to distance himself from his special ‘gift’.
Next there is French telejournalist Marie (Cecile de France). While nearly drowning in a Tsunami, she experiences a near death experience that changes her attitude and perspective on everything. She believes that during her near death experience, she visited the afterlife and is now determined to write a book about it.
Lastly, we have Marcus, a young British boy (played alternately by George and Frankie McLaren), who tries to cope with the death of his identical twin brother, who died in an accident caused by some school bullies. Marcus also has to deal with his mother, a junkie who can’t properly care for him.
Hereafter is an aimless film seems to be more lost than the characters that populate it. Rather then offering a thoughtful and introspective look at death and the afterlife, Eastwood offers nothing of the sort. Peter Morgan’s lazy screenplay (which lacks the wit and brains of some of his previous scripts) saunters to a finale that ultimately resolves nothing and explains even less. It seems as if nothing here really had any point to it.
Not even the use of real word tragedies (the 2004 Asian Tsunami and the 2005 London Bombings), can shake things up. Rather then being powerful and moving they seem more than a little cheap. Making matters worse, painfully awkward scenes appear far too often, having no business being in the film. A Derek Jacobi reading seems utterly pointless and showing George as a Charles Dickens fanatic has no purpose aside from acting as a tool to get him to London for the book fair.
Eastwood’s direction is rather bland, never really picking up traction and and leaving the film with a severe lack of direction. He fails to infuse any moments of suspense or heart into the film. A couple horrid casting choices, with Jay Mohr and the McLaren brothers being the most guilty, make things even more unbearable. The lack of cohesion results in nothing really gelling and the film has a real sense of emptiness and nothingness to it. Morgan’s script is full of stilted dialogue and lacks any poignant moments. The irrationality of the whole thing culminates in a finale completely void of any payoff. Oh, and the finale takes place at a book fair. Great choice Clint!
Eastwood fails to infuse any moments of suspense or heart into the story and when all is said and done, Hereafter is an anticlimactic, sleepy and momentum-less mess of a film.