Monday, September 19, 2011

Hereafter (2010)

 Eastwood Explores The Afterlife 

- As legendary actor/director Clint Eastwood enters his twilight years, it makes sense that he would direct a film about death. While perhaps not one of Eastwood's finest directorial efforts, Hereafter offers much to admire and enjoy.

The film focuses around three characters whose lives are all connected by a preoccupation with death. George (Matt Damon) is an American ex-psychic, a man who has a special gift for communicating with the dead but refuses to use it because it has constantly ruined every good relationship he ever had.  Marcus (Frankie & George McLaren), a young British boy, is crushed by the death of his twin brother Jason, who was both his voice box and emotional rock of which he heavily relied upon. Marie (Cecile De France), a French journalist, had a personal brush with death that has since haunted her every step. Barely surviving the December 26, 2004 India Tsunami, Marie is both afflicted by survivor's guilt and obsessed with finding answers to what seemed to be a first-hand experience of the hereafter.

While certainly pacing the story and mishandling a couple of scenes in particular (especially a strange daydream kiss), Clint Eastwood and company assembles Hereafter very well. As is the case with most of Eastwood's filmography, there is not one bad shot in the entire film. Eastwood yet again teams up with cinematographer Tom Stern to create an exquisite visual product. With a spellbinding use of color and especially shadowing throughout, Hereafter is an excellent example of Eastwood's eye for visuals.

The acting is also good all-around. A twin tag-team duo of Frankie & George McLaren do an admirable job starring as Marcus and Jason. Child actors are not always known for giving great performances and, while they have their weaker moments throughout the film, the McLaren twins have a lot of impressive moments and certainly convince in their roles. Tragically overlooked by the Academy, Cecile De France is a major force in the film as Marie and Hereafter also sees recognizable faces Bryce Dallas Howard, Jay Mohr and Richard King giving good supporting efforts. Matt Damon is especially good in this film, giving what I believe to be his best individual performance yet. I do not say this lightly, as I have not always enjoyed Mr. Damon's acting, but his sympathetic multi-dimensional and, more importantly, subtle portrayal of George in Hereafter is acting excellence if I have ever seen it. All of the characters really propel the film forward and bring something memorable to every scene, making Hereafter a very engaging watch.

Hereafter features many good elements that make the film admirable and recommendable but its themes sound the loudest. Undoubtedly impacting each individual viewer in a very different way Hereafter does a better job than most other similarly geared Hollywood films in addressing the possibility of an afterlife but is not nearly as insightful as it could have been. Those who have not figured the whole death thing out may very well consider Hereafter and all the ways it explores the answers to the questions concerning what happens when we die to be a thoughtful film. However, the ideas on the afterlife as portrayed in Hereafter may seem wrong or even a bit silly to those who have figured the whole death thing out. Hollywood, as it writes off the possible religious explanations for life after death, just loves the idea of a religion/afterlife that can be proven correct by human science. While approaching the topic of an afterlife in a generally balanced way, Hereafter does incorporate this sort of in-search-of-science aspect to a hereafter pretty blatantly. 

Hereafter is not a perfect film but with Clint Eastwood at the helm it is an interesting and stylish film with ambition that is unrivaled in Hollywood.

CBC Rating: 7/10

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