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Movie Review: Hereafter (2010) February 14, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in Movie Reviews, Paranormal, Reviews.
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Sure, Invictus was just okay, but it seems to me old Clint Eastwood can do no wrong these days.  There is a quiet confidence in his approach, a lovely subtlety in his pacing and pauses.  And no matter what, he manages to evoke powerful, genuine emotional responses from his audiences (I mean, come on — Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Letters from Iwo Jima, Changeling, Gran Torino…).

Eastwood’s latest effort, Hereafter, is no different.  It’s a dangerous project because, as the title suggests, the film is about death and what comes after, which makes it prone to soppy melodrama and manipulation.  And of course, the afterlife is a topic often subject to ridicule and parody, so there’s the additional hurdle of keeping the film serious without tipping it over the edge.

Somehow, some way, Eastwood delivers.  Pound-for-pound, Hereafter is perhaps not one of Eastwood’s greatest films, but it’s certainly one of his better ones — and it holds great potential to be one of his most popular films.

It tells three separate stories about three different characters — Marie (Cecile de France), a well-known French television journalist; George (Matt Damon), an American factory worker who just gave up on his old job; and Marcus (Frankie McLaren), a British boy with an older twin brother and a crackhead mother.  I won’t say much more than that except that each of their lives is touched by death and what lies beyond.

Perhaps it’s just my fascination with the film’s themes and/or my appreciation for Eastwood’s direction, but I was totally engrossed by Hereafter from start to finish.  Sceptics might have a natural bias against the film because it lays quite a lot out on the table (similar to say atheists towards The Passion of the Christ or fundamentalist Christians towards The Da Vinci Code — even though it’s fiction), but those who keep an open mind will find it hard not to be moved by at least one of the three stories in the film.  It’s a shame that many people will simply scoff at this film because of its subject matter and try to discredit it on other grounds.  I’m just glad religion played an almost non-existent role in all of this.

Anyway, I loved it.  Eastwood butchered the ending in my opinion with a pointless sequence but apart from that I found it beautiful, absorbing, poignant, and ultimately very satisfying.

4.5 stars out of 5

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Comments»

1. CGI - February 18, 2011

With a rating like 4.5 out of 5 I figured that you would really get a kick out of this video!
Its a break down of all of the special visual effects Clint Eastwood used in the movie!
Its actually very interesting to see what Hollywood uses CGI for now a days.
http://bit.ly/fBLANm

2. Larry - March 6, 2011

>>Sure, Invictus was just okay,

Sure it wasn’t, Invictus was a very good film indeed. Sadly I don’t think you show any real appreciation of Hereafter either. What happens in that final scene is the whole point of the story. It’s love and connection, not death, that Hereafter is really about. The reason most of the characters are so obsessed with the hereafter is precisely because they so love those who have died (DeFrance’s character represents the inquisitive, curious side of our attitude to death and sure enough she pays the price for that in our secular, materialistic society). With its marvelously unshowy performances and Eastwood’s serene direction this is indeed, pound for pound, one of his very best films. Both thoughtful and moving and exceptionally well crafted without ever being flashy this is the best American pictures of the year. Despite a couple of obvious exceptions it unquestionably is also Eastwood’s quietest and in the short term that means Hereafter will likely not receive the attention it deserves. That’s a shame but the movie will still be out there and people will discover it over time.

pacejmiller - March 6, 2011

I acknowledge your point about the ending, but didn’t you find that scene a little heavy handed and unnecessary?

3. Larry - March 8, 2011

‘..didn’t you find that scene a little heavy handed and unnecessary?’

Not in the least. Why would I find it unnecessary when that final scene is what – thematically and narratively – the entire film has been moving toward? Look, the whole point of Hereafter is to use death for a meditation on life. I think some critics and a fair few viewers genuinely don’t get this. They think it’s a supernatural drama like The Sixth Sense, or an action movie based on the tsunami opening, or some New Age-y nonsense with Eastwood hoping for an afterlife because of his own age, and then complain bitterly when the film doesn’t conform to those assumptions. But it’s none of those things and it was never meant to be (there’s a piece to be written here about how brilliantly Eastwood uses genre for his own ends and consistently confounds both critics and audiences into the bargain, but I digress …)

To love and to connect with people in this life is Hereafter’s key point. That’s why it ends as it does with George, pushed into meeting Marie by Marcus, imagining a kiss and with it the possibility of a new life. Hereafter is suffused with melancholy, yes, but it’s also a deeply romantic and ultimately uplifting movie and I would wager that it is this latter quality that attracted Eastwood and not – as most everyone else seems to think – the former.

As for the final scene being heavy-handed, say what? I’ve never seen Eastwood try anything like this before and I thought he pulled it off brilliantly. It perfectly conveys the emotional feeling of George’s character – his private yearning, his hopes, and the viewer is right along there, pulling for him because if anyone deserves to be happy it’s this proverbial Saddest Man In The World, who sends himself to sleep listening to Charles Dickens audio books (and what a truly charming touch that was).

Eastwood’s use of the camera here – doing a 360 degree track around George and Marie as they kiss and – significantly – ending the shot on their two hands coming together (Connection!) is just right – both formally (it’s a directorial flourish but at exactly the right moment) and in terms of the emotional satisfaction it evokes in the audience. I get the impression you’re confusing sentiment (which is good and desirable) with sentimentality (which definitely isn’t).

Anyway,all just my opinion and I apologize if I sounded a bit harsh in my first post. :-)


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