HEREAFTER Review

After last year's 'Invictus' I was glad to see Eastwood going even further into realm he might not explore. Simply reading a plot synopsis for this movie one would not expect Eastwood to touch this, but with him at the helm and the script being penned by Peter Morgan (the guy who wrote 'The Queen' and 'Frost/Nixon') how could this not be one of the more interesting films of the year. I say interesting simply because of the subject matter and the fact its source was two guys who couldn't have been further from this type of content. The result is definitely interesting and is certainly one of Eastwood's more emotionally jarring films. I feel like I was one of the only people who enjoyed 'Changeling' a few years ago, but that film completely swept me off my feet with its moments of high emotional strain and at moments 'Hereafter' does the same. When having three parallel story lines concerning encounters with death it is hard to avoid this though. The film opens with a breathtaking action sequence based around the 2004 Indonesian tsunami and introduces one of our main characters played by Cecil De France and serves as her cause for seeing life in a whole new life. One thing I think actually takes away from the film is the casting of Matt Damon. I like Mr. Damon and his films very much, I find him a reliable actor and a seemingly good person, and his few scenes here with the wonderful Bryce Dallas Howard are among the films best, but his presence as a movie star in this role causes the audience to get the wrong idea. This seems a misstep by the director as he should see these story lines are depending on one another and to have an outside force taking from the story is not what was needed. There are plenty of little quirks the character is given through the script that would supply the role with likeability even if a star like Damon wasn't playing him. I especially enjoyed the fact he was a huge Dickens fan and that this plays a role in the conclusion of the film. Damon's role as a man who has a gift to speak with the dead was also the role, I had the most concern with. How was Eastwood going to make this credible without sounding hokey? Of course the answer was to ground it in science and it does work, we never question that Damon's character is some type of weirdo and the film does a good job of setting him apart from those kooks who are faking it through the experiences of our third main character. For me, the story of the British twins, both played by Frankie McLaren, is the most moving and the most intriguing. It has so many elements, the drug addicted mother, child services, living with a new family, losing a brother. It is the heaviest of the three story lines and while all three of them are left to feel alone in the world it is interesting that the twins and french journalist feel pushed to the side while Damon's character feels central, as if to hold all three plot lines together. It doesn't, any of them could have done so as evidenced by how they converge in the last section of the film which is somewhat strained but I bought into it because I wanted to see how this film would wrap up. Beginning with such a bang, this film gets quieter and quieter as it goes along and ends on a simple note. It is fulfilling though and Eastwood's simple score is a welcome difference than I expected this film to have. It was made to look more epic in the trailer, but you would be highly disappointed if you went in expecting that. This is simply a movie that speculates on a question no one can truly answer. It offers some interesting perspective and reveals some truly heartbreaking moments when dealing with the most painful thing on earth: the loss of a loved one. It is no doubt a good film, but the feeling it could have been better doesn't escape me. The script could have brought things together better or not tried to make everything so equal. Eastwood should have realized what casting Damon would do-there is certainly a more interesting movie to be imagined from this one, but I will take what I got-it wasn't bad. It was certainly affecting.