Life’s big mystery remains a mystery in “Hereafter”
Matt Damon sees dead people. In “Hereafter” he plays George, a Bay Area medium who sees his ability to contact those on the other side as more of a curse than a blessing. But the film’s title is a misnomer-it really isn’t about the hereafter at all, which would be fine if the results were in any way satisfying.
Which, alas, they are not.
This is particularly disappointing because “Hereafter” is directed by Clint Eastwood, who has become as beloved and respected for his directorial skills as he is an actor which, come to think of it, you really can’t say about anyone else. At age 80 it appears Mr. Eastwood has lost his mojo. “Hereafter” ranks with “Gran Torino,” “Invictus” and “Changeling” as not only his most recent films but his most unfulfilling. It could be said that Eastwood is disadvantaged by his superior body of work.
Like even his least rewarding films, however, “Hereafter” is expertly crafted and contains some excellent performances. Along with Damon the cast includes Cecile de France as a French TV journalist who survives a tsunami, and twins Frankie and George Mclaren who experience a tragedy of their own. It is a given these lives will somehow intersect. Their stories are not uninteresting, and despite the fact that the pace of the film is slow and deliberate that is not its primary problem-though a terrific payoff would have made this generic meditation much more tolerable.
There are several effective moments that are handled with beauty and grace, most notably when George and a young single woman (Bryce Dallas Howard) have a meet cute during a cooking class. It’s primarily a ruse, but it does give the “Hereafter” a much needed dose of personality before it shuts the door.
Perhaps Eastwood, settling in to the twilight of his life, didn’t feel comfortable taking a stance on the subject material. Or maybe the screenplay by Peter Morgan was written by a non-believer who has little to say on the subject (which apparently is exactly Morgan’s position). If that had been the case, at least the story could have been more explicit about how the great unknown has affected the characters. As it stands, the film ends just as two of the main characters are about to share a revealing discussion, truncating what could have been the movie’s most interesting dialogue.
We get that “Hereafter” may not be about answers. But the film could have used a lot more interesting, thought-provoking questions along the way.
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements including disturbing disaster images and brief strong language.