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Do you believe there's an afterlife?
A Life Based On Death, isn't worth living
Perhaps one of Clint Eastwood's most unique films that he's ever made. For those that are familiar with Eastwood's body of work, then you'll know that he always makes his stories deep and emotionally character driven. "Hereafter", presents a unique innovative concept that not only causes his main protagonists to find some source of redemption and enlightenment through adversity, it allows them to find some sort of inner peace, in the end. Surprisingly, the catalyst for each of these characters' journey starts with the basic concept of death. How precious life is, and how close many of us have come to dying on a daily basis. Indeed, it's through these sudden near death experiences or in the case of one of them, a death of a loved one, that each of the main protagonists discover a sense of inner peace. A peace that they thought never could have existed before. A new perspective on life through these traumatic death related experiences that touches the heart of it's audience.
The story of this film is focused on three different characters; each with their own story about how death has effected their lives, as their destinies intertwine with each other. Matt Damon plays a typical blue collar factory worker, George Lonegan, who used to be a professional psychic after a near death experience. However, he quits his job to become a factory worker, when he soon learned that a life surrounded by death wasn't worth living, as it prevented him from living a normal life. People were constantly asking him to contact their loved ones in the afterlife, and any girl he got close to soon became too freaked out by his gift to contact the supernatural. However, as much as he tries to hide his gift, it seems various circumstances prevent him from doing so, as his brother is no help either. As far as he's concerned, he thinks George is wasting his talent, when he should be doing his civic duty as a psychic.
Then there's our other character, Marie LeLay (Cecile De France), who is french reporter that seemingly has it all. She has a great career as a successful news reporter in France, as well as a loving and supportive boyfriend and producer. Unfortunately, due to a near death experience, she too gains the ability to communicate with the deceased. Needless to say, this causes a major downfall in her career, as she tries to write a book based on her brief experience exploring the hereafter. With nowhere to go and nobody left to turn to, she reluctantly decides to try to publish her book based on her near death experience, and how it granted her the gift to communicate with the supernatural like George.
Although you won't see any walking ghosts from any of our main protagonist's point of view, they do have a unique way of communicating with the dead. Unlike most psychics that often go into trances, George's way is a bit more practical and realistic. What he does once he touches the hand of the person in mourning, it instantly establishes a connection to the hereafter where he's able to communicate with their lost loved one. Not only is he able to talk to the deceased, he's able to vividly picture them exactly the way they were when they died. Granted, this little fact has probably little to nothing with my analysis of this movie, but I thought it was worth mentioning for those curious as to how George and Marie can communicate with the dead in this movie.
Anyways, to get back on track with this review, we'll look over our third main character, Marcus, whom loses his brother to a fatal car accident. Now, stuck in a foster home, since their mother is a hopelessly depressed alcoholic, Marcus starts to feel his life is empty without his brother. Pining for a way to say goodbye to his brother one last time, as he researches various psychic mediums. Sadly, like real life, most of these so called psychics are all flash but no substance. Meaning in general terms, all the psychics he meets throughout most of the film are nothing more than generic phonies that have no more of a gift to communicate with the hereafter than you or me. This inevitably leads Marcus into seeking help from one of our other main characters, in order to finally say goodbye to his brother one final time.
Out of all of Clint Eastwood's films, I can't say this is one of his best. I'd probably say this is one of his more average films, if anything. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying this is a bad movie by any means. After all, "Hereafter" contains a lot of the same elements we've come to expect out of Clint's past directorial work like "Million Dollar Baby" and "Invictus", where the plot is character driven and orchestrates a unfathomably deep storyline in the face of adversity. However, what keeps "Hereafter" from being a great film is that it's incredibly predictable. Seriously, anyone can tell exactly how this film ends just by watching the first hour of the movie, as Clint Eastwood and his writer, Peter Morgan, make it too freaking obvious how this whole story comes together. By the way, the film is two hours long, so that's probably not a good sign either.
However, I thought the acting performances were pretty good, and pretty much carries the movie. Matt Damon does a remarkable job selling this role, as he doesn't play one of these high profile religious psychics, who claims to know everything about the afterlife. If anything, he even admits, in the movie, that even though he can talk to the dead, he still doesn't know what happens to them after they die. This along with the realistic, or should I say plausible, approach as to how he's able to communicate with the dead allows for the viewer to temporarily suspend their disbelief, in the name of cinematic entertainment.
Although "Hereafter" could have been better, it was still a fairly decent film for what it was. Overall, I'd have to give this movie a three out of four. A decent film to watch if your into fantasy movies but if you want to see some of his best, then I'd recommend his other films like "Unforgiven", "Mystic River", "Invictus", "Changeling", and "Letters to Iwo Jima" to name a few.