Film Review: Hereafter — C.J. Henderson

HEREAFTER

By: C.J. Henderson  

Well, let’s get this out of the way right now. This is not a film for the children. That is not to say that it is filled with bad language or excessive sex or violence. It’s not. Indeed, that’s a big part of why this one isn’t for children. I am, of course, talking about that modern brand of child, the ageless moron, the self-centered annoyance determined to never mature.

This is a movie for those who can think. This is a film for people with the patience to wait and see what happens. Who do not need every single little thing explained to them immediately before their tiny brains begin to hurt from the effort of attempting to actually concentrate.

This is also a movie destined to not make hundreds of millions. Sadly, it’s too smart, too layered, too rich. Its fate will simply be to remind movie-goers that there is still class in Hollywood, that there are still a handful of people who know how to take the job of film-making seriously. Let me tell you about their latest effort.

The Story: This one begins in an island paradise where French journalist Marie LeLay (Cécile de France) manages to survive an unexpected tidal wave. She nearly dies, but instead has a near-death experience which leaves her shaken and searching for answers. Before her story can continue, however, more are woven in around it. We meet twins Marcus and Jason (George and Frankie McLaren) as death enters their lives, and George (Matt Damon), a former practicing psychic who has turned his back on the field.

For quite some time the film follows the stories of these folks quite separately, each of them in different parts of the world, each of them totally unconnected one from the other. As an audience member, you know they’re all going to have to coincide sooner or later, but for once, the story is told at a luxurious pace, one so much so that you begin to wonder if they will ever connect at all.

They do.

There is much more that could be told about this film, but it would be pointless. To tell more of the plot would not convince those interested only in fart jokes, explosions, jiggling breasts, car chases and other of the boring, standard tropes which fill most films today to see it. It would, however, lessen the enjoyment of those who do enjoy an intelligent film, and so, let me just say, if you have not had an intense theater experience for some time, if you can’t remember the last time you sat in a darkened movie house and wondered, “where is this going,” “how are they going to make this work,” “what’s going to happen next,” then this is the picture for you.

 I also see little reason at this point to heap praise on Clint Eastwood’s directing ability. If you don’t know by now that he is one of the industry’s finest talents, there’s probably no convincing you. Let me just say that, yes, once again Eastwood has taken a quiet, somber topic and treated it with respect, wringing from it a film unlike that which any of his contemporaries could have made.

 Wisely, he has again teamed with his longtime collaborator, cinematographer Tom Stern (Gran Torino, Changeling). Stern is an absolute master. His ability to pull forth every bit of color from a simple shot of cement and asphalt, his incredible instinct for proper camera placement, correct use of light sources, et cetera, is constantly breathtaking.

Also on board are other you-can-always-trust-their-work, Eastwood regulars, production designer James J. Murakami, editors Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach, and costume designer Deborah Hopper. For anyone familiar with the look of the director’s films, these are the people responsible for it most every time, and their work is as good as ever. And, of course, Eastwood himself did the music once more, and it works throughout, as always.

This is a complex film presented in a simple, straight-forward manner. It does not follow any of the usual pathways, and most likely will throw a lot of audience members for a loop. Those with the patience to simply sit back and get a glimpse into the world of psychic research and the truth about how the world feels about serious looks into the afterlife should get their tickets and see this one in the theater.

Those who want to watch things blow up, or giggle when girls lose their tops, well … next summer isn’t that far off.

Our final word: 5 stars out of 5.

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