13 Nov

Title: Hereafter
Clint Eastwood
Peter Morgan
Matt Damon, Cécile de France, Bryce Dallas Howard, Frankie McLaren, Georgie McLaren, Lyndsey Marshal, Thierry Neuvic, Jay Mohr
MPAA Rating:
PG-13, mature thematic elements including disturbing disaster and accident images, and for brief strong language
129 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating:
Rotten Tomatoes:


Clint Eastwood, simply put, is the coolest man in Hollywood. The guy was the manliest, smoothest star around when he was an actor. And now, as a director, the guy has made 10 films in the last 11 years, a simply stunning pace for any filmmaker, let alone one who just turned 80 earlier this year, and, what’s even more impressive, is that the quality of his films is always impeccable. So of course I was dying to see Hereafter, his latest effort. It seemed like, as usual, Mr. Eastwood had gone for a project that would challenge him. And that’s what I like so much about him, every single time he goes behind the camera it’s to take on a challenging film, never an easy one, and the result is always tremendously unique.

The reviews for Hereafter, however, weren’t so kind. Rotten Tomatoes has it standing at 48%, the worst rated of those last 10 films he’s made on the review aggregator (the next one would be 2002’s Blood Work), but I still had faith in the film, it’s impossible not to have faith in Clint Eastwood. And boy was I right to have faith in the man, cause I thought Hereafter was a pretty incredible film, and I sincerely don’t understand why it’s score on the review aggregator site is so low.

This film continues to show Mr. Eastwood’s amazing directorial skills, here tackling a very different sort of film structure, and a very complex subject matter. His lead actor is Matt Damon, whom he directed to a Best Supporting Actor nomination in last year’s Invictus, and in Hereafter they are both working very much outside their respective comfort zones, but it works here. Mr. Damon is a highly skilled actor who, under the careful direction of Mr. Eastwood has no problem helping him craft a film that, when all is said and done, is, simply put, beautiful.

The difficult topic Mr. Eastwood tackles here is the one of afterlife. And yes, that’s a very complex subject matter to deal with, and one that pretty much no one in Hollywood has the nerve to anymore, but that’s what Mr. Eastwood is here for, to do the undoable, and to knock it out of the park while at it. Hereafter deals with different yet connected stories, that’s why, in a way, Mr. Damon really isn’t the ‘lead’ actor in the conventional sense because his is not the only story being told. Mr. Eastwood takes on these different stories perfectly, without hurrying himself, and always getting us to connect to his characters with that tender touch of his we’ve gotten used to by now.

I liked how Mr. Eastwood touched the topic of afterlife, never once going into gooey territory, always treating it with respect in the sense that he won’t say he believes in it, but he won’t disrespect those who do. Matt Damon’s character, George, is a guy who has psychic powers and who people keep coming to see for him to help them communicate with those beyond the grave, but he wants nothing to do with his skill and just wants to lead a normal life. This is our main story, but there are two more, and at the end the three intersect. I’ve grown tired of the interconnecting stories because many films connect them in completely dumb impossible ways, but in Hereafter they don’t intersect in a completely made-up impossible sort of way, they do so in a unlikely-but-possible way, and that’s more than enough for me, especially when the three stories were handled ever so carefully by Mr. Eastwood for over two hours.

I won’t go ahead and describe the other stories, nor expand on George’s story, but, rest assured, they’re all very special and, what’s best, completely plausible. And sure, you may be thinking about just how plausible it might all be if we have a psychich as one of our main characters, but Mr. Eastwood makes it all work, because he never once suggests he believes psychics, one could even deduce from the film that most psychics are fakes, he just suggests that George might have some psychic-like skill that allows him to communicate with those beyond. Mr. Eastwood is careful in how he decides to show George’s skill, he presents it as true, he shows how when he connects with one person he does gain insight to them, but he never once directly proposes as literally talking to dead people.

The rest of the stories share elements with George’s story, they all deal very carefully and quite masterfully with the topic of afterlife in one way or the other. And there are quite a lot of surprising moments in the film, Cécile de France plays, and plays really well at that, a newscaster for French television and she experiences the tsunami when she’s on duty in Thailand. The tsunami is a huge feat to withhold in the film, but what’s amazing is that you never once get the impression that Mr. Eastwood did this to show he could handle effects, but rather to show how these huge events can affect people and get them thinking about how it could all be over ever so quickly, and it’s all done very gracefully by the man.

I loved Hereafter. I just did, I thought it was an amazing addition to Mr. Eastwood’s already flawless repertoire, because this is still a very Eastwood film, even though the subject matter would initially seem an unlikely fit with the man, the tone of it all still shows us his fingerprints all over it. This is a film about the afterlife that neither tells one that it believes in it or not, it will give the skeptical something to think about, and the convinced will likely be left a bit uneasy, because it never once settles on steady ground on anything other than the fact that many people believe in the concept of afterlife because they love, and they need their loved ones to still be there, somewhere.

Mr. Eastwood thankfully, as I said, never once goes into gooey territory, this never feels forced and never feels over-emotional, which is impressive when you consider how deeply submerged in emotions this whole ride is. This film creates a beautiful atmosphere, these are ordinary people who are forced by life to consider this extraordinary concept. The film grants neither you as a viewer nor the characters in the story any real closure, the road goes on, the doors are still open, and I like it better that way, because we can never truly understand the concept of afterlife, but trust me, whatever the case may be, you’ll wonder about it once you finish seeing Hereafter.

Grade: A


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