Wednesday, 2 February 2011


2010. Dir: Clint Eastwood. Starring: Matt Damon, Cécile De France, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jay Mohr and Frankie McLaren. ●●●○○

Last week I heard an interesting pair of interconnected stories about the pre-production process of Hereafter, both of which mainly concern the passage of the script from Peter Morgan's bottom drawer to Clint Eastwoods shooting schedule. After Morgan's success with The Queen and Frost/Nixon he was well aware he needed to get more scripts out whilst on top, keep the money coming in when the goodwill's there, you know what I mean. So he dug out his draft script for a piece about three characters linked through death, and sent it to his agent. Some time later he was called to a meeting with Steven Spielberg (which allegedly involved sitting for ten minutes in a pitch black room) where he was told that Eastwood loved the script and planned to direct. Morgan then asked for the script back so he could work on it and get it ready for filming - at which point he was told it didn't need any revisions.

Cut to the finished product; a film which virtually screams "This script isn't finished!"

Each of the three storylines explore characters with differing attitudes and experiences of the possibility of life after death, and you could easily have made a better feature that concentrated on two of those then trying to mix them up, with the wholly uninspired way of bringing them together at the end.

In section one we follow Cécile De France as a Parisien TV reporter who through surviving the Boxing Day Tsunami in South East Asia goes through a near death experience. It's worth noting the special effects at this point are spectacular, not only is the tidal wave and it's destruction rendered with spine chilling precision (you've probably seen the trailer which showcases the trees falling in the distance) but it also features the most realistic underwater movement shots I've seen. De France then researches the phenomenon of near-death experiences at the cost of her job with the network. It's a neat concept, but without a central thesis or the evidence of rigourous research it somehow cheapens what could have been an interesting segment on scientific dogma and political discomfort around the whole idea of death.

The second, and by far the most successful, strand follows retired medium Matt Damon as he tries to live his life without lapsing back into the old habits. The script treats his abilities as real but unwelcome, as a psychological affliction he cannot be cured of. The tentative romance he builds with Bryce Dallas Howard, a co-student in an Italian cookery class, is wonderfully judged from the tasting tests to preparing dinner at his apartment. That later scene is heartbreaking as Damon tries to convince Howard not to have a reading. There's a final reading that Damon does towards the end of the movie that lets you into how much might be show - it's perfectly judged, Damon giving a performance that should have had better notices.

The final section involves two wooden twins and their mockney heroin addicted mother, and before you can say green cross code one of the boys is hit by a van. I realise it's early days for Frankie and George McLaren but neither of them have much of a future in film acting based on their performances here. This section also sees the biggest emotional jumps from broad comedy to mawkish sentimentality neither of which work.

Eastwood directs with the steady assuredness we've come to expect but there's no real connection to the material, so even the emotional beats seem forced. Perhaps if he'd only let Morgan play around with the script a bit more it may have worked.


TomS said...

I guess I liked this one a shade better... Not a perfect film, but I appreciated its earnest tone, and the tsunami effects were excellent.

Runs Like A Gay said...

I enjoyed parts of it, but as a whole I felt it didn't work. A few more script revisions (including cutting out one of the storylines) would have done the trick.