Let me start this review off by stating that I have not seen any of the big award-winning Clint Eastwood films of the past few years. The last Clint Eastwood movie I actually watched was The Unforgiven. His newer movies just really haven’t appealed to me from the outside. I’m coming at Hereafter strictly from a curious walk-in customer who tries to live by a Christian belief system. That will obviously come to play in my review of the movie.
Hereafter revolves around “three people [who] are touched by death in different ways. George is a blue-collar American who has a special connection to the afterlife. On the other side of the world, Marie, a French journalist, has a near-death experience that shakes her reality. And when Marcus, a London schoolboy, loses the person closest to him, he desperately needs answers. Each on a path in search of the truth, their lives will intersect, forever changed by what they believe might–or must–exist in the hereafter.”
Hereafter begins in a very misleading way. It sets you up to expect a film that will move at a quicker pace than it ends up doing. How else am I supposed to feel when the very first sequence that happens involves a tsunami crashing into the Indonesian shoreline like a scene out of 2012? After this very exciting beginning, we start to settle into the different stories of our three main characters. Each character really does have a compelling tale to tell. The problem is in the pacing. I felt like I was on a roller coaster ride and I was sitting in a theater watching a drama. Something significant and exciting would happen and then we would get another ten minutes of dialogue. Everything just moved along way too slow for me. It was like the film was building up to something but never got there. The characters do end up crossing paths at the end, but by that time their “connecting” seemed hokey and contrived.
Let’s talk about my issues with Hereafter from a Christian standpoint. First off, there’s no sort of religious center point at all. The film isn’t really trying to sway us in any one certain way, which is to be expected. It’s all very ambiguous. Basically, Mr. Eastwood takes pot shots at different religions and shows how they fail miserably at addressing death. You’ve got the wacky new-agers and psychics being exposed as frauds and con men more than anything. The scenes of them being debunked are extremely funny. He does take one shot at Christianity by showing a tele – evangelist basically telling his viewers passively that we’ve got nothing to be sad about when a loved one dies. After all, they’re in a better place. You know what? That’s all nice and easy to say, but those words don’t make the hurt and emptiness that we feel go away.
The scenes of the afterlife in Hereafter were just plain disturbing. Director Eastwood’s vision of where we go when we die definitely frightened me. I’m glad I don’t really hold his beliefs or concepts on what it will be like. His vision is a bleak one where everybody just sort of wanders around in a crowd not really doing anything. When Matt Damon’s character gets visions of the dead relatives of the people he is “connecting” with, the deceased describe death as exhilarating and unlimiting (they can float and are not tied down). That’s not what we’re shown onscreen, however. Every time we see the flash of a face of the person who passed away they look grim and very unhappy. I would too. Who wants to walk around on their feet for eternity in what appears to be an unending platform of a Manhattan train station?
Honestly, I really hate to lay blame on Clint for the whole movie but it’s hard not to when he read the script and knew what he was getting into. The fault in Hereafter can’t be blamed on the visuals. The movie looks great. It’s both sweeping and personal when it needs to be. A lot of the blame really has to be put on writer Peter Morgan for not finding a way to push the story forward at a quicker pace. Ultimately, though, all the responsibility does fall on Eastwood for moving ahead on the project with the screenplay he okayed.
One thing you can’t do is put any of the guilt on the cast. Everyone in Hereafter put 110% into their roles. I can’t think of a single moment in the film where I felt that one of the actors came out of character. You really did feel sympathetic to what each of them was going through and dealing with. You do buy into Matt Damon as a normal warehouse worker. George and Frankie McLaren as the twins deal with their emotionally charged scenes like seasoned pros.
Hereafter is a very bizarre film. I wanted to like it. I even thought about the film for days after I saw it which I very rarely do. The only thing I can think of that Eastwood might have been trying to tell us with the film is that we have to quit dwelling in the past and learn to deal with death and move on to have a full life. I’m just not satisfied with that being all he was trying to say with this film. Maybe he was also trying to convey that none of us really know how it’s going to be so quit worrying about it and live life to it’s fullest. I don’t know. I do know that I definitely am glad that I didn’t walk into the movie looking for any definitive answers or ideals to take away because there wasn’t any.