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Hereafter

Clint Eastwood, then: late-career renaissance (Flags Of Our Fathers, Iwo Jima, Gran Torino) and a series of perfectly good films, an admirable late period of respectable, bankable efforts coming after Million Dollar Baby and before the fairly stuffy Invictus. And then we’re onto Hereafter – and a very, very curious offering indeed.

A not entirely uninteresting one, I may add: the opening sequence, in which Cecile De France is swept through streets amidst a hurtling tsunami-conveyed procession of lorries, cars, other people and stray trees, for example, is extremely impressive, believable, even a bit worrying. CGI is not a total write-off, not when it’s employed as aptly as it is here. So far, so surprisingly thrilling.

The wonderful French actress appears to have succumbed, but splutters to life shortly thereafter, and in the midst of all this has had ‘visions’ of an afterlife – visions that lead to a bit of a sea change, shall we say. She becomes obsessive about her experience and what it means, and cheekily starts writing a book all about it, despite signing on to write something that sounded far more interesting about Charles De Gaulle. She also sees through her exceptionally transparent rat boyfriend and gives him the shove.

Anyway, before all that: we switch to Matt Damon, who’s rolling a forklift around Blue Collar Inc and living a rather monkish life in San Francisco. We soon learn that he’s boxing beneath his weight – he has serious skills as a medium under wraps: they were, of course, more trouble than they were worth.

Then we lurch right into the grubby bowels of a London tower block to meet two twins (‘I’m 12 minutes older!’) who have a mum that’s a bit worse for wear courtesy of drugs. A near-miss with the authorities improbably averted, the older twin fails to avoid an oncoming van and perishes.

(There is a sequence that follows, involving Matt Damon and Bryce Dallas Howard, that serves one purpose: to emphasise how alone Matt is, and how attempts at kickstarting a relationship are tragically doomed. He knows about this, that and the other, doesn’t he? He is the unfortunately privy-to-every-demon kind of chap that girls soon want to avoid. Anyway, they meet at an Italian cooking lesson and have a rather sensual ‘palette-testing’ coming together. They go back to his: his brother has left an irrefutable answering message regarding his recent ‘step out of self-imposed retirement’ to provide a reluctant ‘reading’ for a work colleague. Howard is intrigued and begs for a reading: cue doom. 10 minutes that could’ve been snipped, no danger. This is not Apocalypse Now: just throw in a bit of expositional, 30 seconds, job done.)

Anyway, all three plot strands are yoked together at the London Book Fair. Surely you know what’s coming?

The performances are all game: you do wonder what it would’ve taken for these actors, some of whom hardly need the work, to say no to Clint. I bet he could’ve got them all to do The Human Centipede. In other words, how many of them wanted to turn this down? A few I’ll bet. It’d be interesting to find out…

Peter Morgan wrote this, and it’s kind of admirable the amount the script dares to ask of the viewer. He was in a proper mushy old mood, Peter, when he wrote this. Though it veers into ‘sinister’ territory at times, what with all the conspiratorial conversations about ‘suppressed afterlife information’ and proclamations about Christ, there’s surely nothing wrong with a bit of unashamedly romantic fare. And Eastwood renders the whole thing presentable (particularly with that opening). But this is a mess; if there is an afterlife, surely God will offer up at least a ‘Tsk!’ at this when running through Clint’s CV. Or even better: excise it from the records. It is not worthy.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. March 30, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    It always had the look of one to miss. Like pretty much all films about the afterlife come to think of it, all Hollywood ones anyway. What inspired you to watch it?

  2. Larry
    March 31, 2011 at 12:05 am

    From your condescending assessment of Eastwood’s recent work to your embarrassing effort at getting to grips with Hereafter, you are a remarkably clueless reviewer. I’d say more but I really can’t be bothered!

    • March 31, 2011 at 7:48 am

      The tone of the review was not meant to be condescending – I’m a huge fan of Clint’s stuff (particularly Josey Wales and Unforgiven, like everyone else). But Hereafter is a bad film – if you thought I was harsh and dismissive, check the other reviews! It has a few interesting things going on but the transitions from one sequence to another are often lurching at best and the whole thing is a bit of a mess. I didn’t feel the film warranted me spending any more time than that on a rigorous analysis, which I could have offered. It’s certainly no real fun disparaging a film – even one as preposterous as this one.

      Incidentally, ‘getting to grips’ with Hereafter is hardly a stretch. It’s just not worth anyone’s time.

  3. March 31, 2011 at 7:37 am

    It’s a fair question! I try and watch as many things as I can bear, from all parts of the expectation spectrum, is the best (yet still feeble) way of putting it. It’s fairly perverse in a way, but I suppose watching Hereafter just prior to watching, say, Cave Of Forgotten Dreams, Uncle Boonmee and Of Gods And Men (all of which I’ll get to see in the next week or so) might be akin to chomping on Haribo hors d’oeuvres and augment what real nourishment is…that partially the daft idea, anyway. And I don’t just want to be dismissive – some films that have been panned I’ve taken plenty from. In the future I may revise this and simply be very selfish, but for now I’m too fascinated, even in likely turkeys, as to what might have gone wrong and what can be salvaged.

    But yeah: afterlife films. It’s a long shot! It’s funny though – I’ve had a few messages about this one. I think a few Clint fanboys have got the hump!

  4. March 31, 2011 at 10:44 am

    I studied Eastwood’s films in school funnily enough. We had to do a non-academic subject and mine was film studies. We focused on gangster movies of the 1930s and on Eastwood.

    He’s done a lot of remarkable work. Work anyone would be proud of, and as director and as actor. He’s not got a 100% hit rate though and it’s no kindness to him to pretend otherwise. Unthinking praise is fatal to art. Fans who pretend all an artist’s work is great fail to give proper appreciation to that work which really is great.

    Looking forward to your thoughts on Uncle Bonmee.

  5. March 31, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Did that initial foray into 30s gangster movies spark the noir ken?

    ‘Fans who pretend all an artist’s work is great fail to give proper appreciation to that work which really is great.’ Adroitly put and say no more from me.

    Yes, he’s been involved with a large number of extremely good efforts but I’d stand up in court and defend my right to question the greatness of The Rookie and Hereafter, surely!

    I’m genuinely excited at the prospect of watching Uncle Boonmee (have you seen the poster? It’s glorious!). I’ll get to it as soon as I possibly can, I can’t wait.

  6. March 31, 2011 at 11:01 am

    I don’t honestly know, but I do still love gangster movies so probably. Certainly it exposed me to the sheer brilliance of Cagney and Bogart at an impressionable age. Bogart remains my favourite actor, to the extent I have a favourite actor (which actually isn’t much of an extent, but so it goes).

    I’ve not seen the UB poster. I’ll google it.

  7. March 31, 2011 at 11:15 am

    Here’s a quick link for the poster if you need it:

    Well then, what with your nomination of The Big Sleep the other Tuesday, I can only guess that you adore the film also? It’s a truly joyous couple of hours, that. Though whenever I think on it, it’s the early scene in the bookstore that springs to mind, the untying of the hair…I do hope I’m not misremembering this!

  8. March 31, 2011 at 11:32 am

    Thanks for the link. I’d found another poster via google, that one’s much better.

    As for The Big Sleep. Cinematic. Perfection. Right from the opening credits.

  9. March 31, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    I can only wholeheartedly concur.

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