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‘Hereafter’ criminally bad despite its talent

November 4th, 2010

Considering the group of people involved, “Hereafter” should be one of the year’s best movies. 

Director Clint Eastwood is undoubtedly one of our greatest filmmakers today, having created cinematic and emotional masterpieces like “Mystic River” and “Million Dollar Baby.” 

The screenplay is written by Oscar/Emmy-nominated Peter Morgan. His credits include some of the greatest political dramas like “Frost/Nixon” and “The Queen.”

This should have been a sure thing. Sadly, not only is “Hereafter” not one of the year’s best films, but frankly I can’t think of a movie outside Nicolas Cage’s “Knowing” that disappointed me quite as much. 

Eastwood and Morgan have dealt with just as much emotional material before, but with grander success. It’s bizarre how horribly they misfire here.

 The story is about three people and how they’ve been affected by death. 

George, played laboriously by Matt Damon, is a factory worker and genuine psychic who’s hiding from his powers and hating what he can do. The second character, Marie (Cecile de France), is a French TV journalist and recent tsunami survivor whose near-death experience drives her to discover what happened to her. 

The third character is Marcus (George McLaren), the younger of two pubescent twins trying to create his own identity after his brother’s accidental death.

We can usually trust Eastwood to tackle such tough topics in a refreshingly unapologetic way, as he did with “Changeling.” But here, he makes missteps severe enough that the movie never recovers.

The biggest mistake that it is downright boring, which is practically criminal considering the premise’s potential.

While some films can hide their inaction with exceptional dialogue and compelling characterization, “Hereafter” doesn’t have dialogue or characters consistently interesting enough to keep audiences engaged.

The dialogue doesn’t have any brilliant standout moments like we’d expect.

Even worse, “Hereafter” never goes anywhere. It just floats around, confused, until it finally ends. 

When you’ve passed the hour mark and nothing has happened, there’s obviously something wrong. Now, some critics may say they love this relaxed pacing because it lets the movie breathe. 

But I say it drags. It drags because Morgan and Eastwood never take the risks necessary for this bold of a story.

While I did enjoy Damon’s storyline the best and thought Marcus had a strong emotional arc, I found Marie’s tale (excluding an outstandingly realistic tsunami opening sequence) to be boring and unnecessary. The movie would have flowed better if focused on the twins and George. George’s storyline was worthy of a movie all its own. 

Damon is by far the best thing this movie offers, capturing the tortured soul of a man who can’t escape what he is. 

However, Damon isn’t nearly enough to save this mess. Ultimately, Morgan and Eastwood aren’t willing to do what their premise promises and consequently leave us with nothing except thoughts of what could have been. 

“Hereafter” could have been something as hauntingly beautiful and powerful as “American Beauty.” 

It could have offered a riveting and heartfelt look into mortality and death in a way “The Lovely Bones” failed to do. 

It could have been flawlessly inflective in just sitting back with its audience and exploring the possibility of an afterlife. 

But because of a convoluted plot, boring pace, and lack of basic storytelling, Eastwood’s latest is frustratingly forgettable.