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A drama centered on three people -- a blue-collar American, a French journalist and a London school boy -- who are touched by death in different ways.
For more about Hereafter and the Hereafter Blu-ray release, see Hereafter Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on March 2, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Matt Damon, CÚcile De France, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jessica Griffiths, Richard Kind, Jay Mohr
Director: Clint Eastwood
» See full cast & crew
Hereafter Blu-ray Review
The Sweet and Sour Hereafter...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, March 2, 2011
If I were handed a list of films from 2010, deprived of any prior knowledge, and asked to pick which one I thought was helmed by director Clint Eastwood, I'd quickly and confidently point to Winter's Bone, Debra Granik's Academy Award-nominated gut punch. One of the last films I'd choose would be Hereafter, an ambling, at-times aimless afterlife melodrama if there ever was one. As rudderless as the lost souls that populate writer Peter Morgan's sauntering screenplay, Eastwood's uncharacteristically listless misfire has little to say about life or death and has even less to offer the thoughtful moviegoer; a surprise given that the wizened filmmaker, now eighty years old, probably spends more time contemplating the hereafter than his younger contemporaries. Don't get me wrong, Hereafter isn't terrible, just terribly disappointing, especially considering the talent involved.
Hereafter bobs and weaves through three loosely connected stories. In Thailand, renowned French journalist Marie Lelay (CÚcile de France, High Tension) has a near-death experience after being caught in the path of the 2004 Asian Tsunami. Revived shortly after having a vision of the afterlife, she becomes obsessed with life-after-death to the detriment of her prolific career and the dismay of her producer and lover, Didier (Thierry Neuvic, Tell No One). In London, twelve-year-old twins Marcus and Jason (plucked-from-the-street brothers, Frankie and George McLaren) struggle to keep their drug-addled mother (Lyndsey Marshal, Being Human) out of trouble. But when Jason is struck and killed by a passing car, Marcus is left alone, despondent and desperate to know whether death marks the end of consciousness or just the beginning. In San Francisco, tormented psychic George Lonegan (Matt Damon, True Grit) works to keep his supernatural gift a secret and live a normal life. However, his stubborn brother (Jay Mohr, Jerry Maguire) has other ideas and tries to persuade George to cash in on his emotionally taxing abilities. Will a chance encounter with a sweet young woman (Bryce Dallas Howard, Terminator Salvation) confirm George's worst fears or allow him to finally forge a genuine connection with a flesh-and-blood human being?
Each of Morgan's separate storylines have distinct potential, each one features characters and actors who deliver on that potential, and each provides a sobering peek behind both the terrestrial and cosmic curtains. Morgan's use of recent real-world tragedies -- the 2004 Asian Tsunami and the 2005 London Bombings -- result in two of the film's most riveting scenes. Damon, de France, Neuvic, Marshal and Howard make even the most open-ended encounters resonate on one level or another. And Eastwood underwrites the entire intertwined saga with a sense of longing, loneliness and unsureness that hints at the greater masterpiece that could have been. Unfortunately, Eastwood's wayward musings on the hereafter stall long before gaining any traction, leaving his 31st directorial effort without much direction.
Other missteps only exacerbate the problem. Eastwood's solitary score, while expressive and evocative in its own right, never quite gels with the film; odd casting choices lead to several excruciatingly wooden performances (Mohr, Richard Kind, Steve Schirripa, Marthe Keller and the inexperienced McLaren brothers are all guilty); and the whole of the production lacks cohesion, thought-provoking ideas and, ironically, any sense of vision. Typically filmmakers tackle life, death and beyond when they have some wisdom or yearning to impart. Instead, Eastwood poses a few run-of-the-mill questions, settles on the unknowable nature of the unknown, and mutters the same quasi-spiritual we're all connected meta-sermon we've heard a thousand times before. (Every now and then, when the writing and directing stars align, in a far more memorable, meaningful way.)
Morgan's screenplay doesn't help matters. Dialogue comes in three flavors: stilted, distressed and mysteeeerious. "You have a duty to do it because you have a gift," Billy insists. "It's not a gift Billy. It's a curse," George retorts. "Give me your hands," George orders Billy's grieving associate Christos seconds before quipping, "I don't even do this anymore." I could fill an entire review with grim gems like these, and not just from dear ol' Georgie. (The twins... oh sweet Lord, those poor, precocious, forsaken little waifs.) Characters aren't developed as much as they are splayed open and discarded for all to see. Plot points aren't carefully unraveled, they're unceremoniously introduced, tinkered with and eventually left hanging. Heartstrings aren't plucked, they're strummed with the grace of a three-year-old who's stumbled across his father's guitar. Revelations, many of which are tacked on to Lelay's chat with a lone expert in the field, lack depth and fullness. And poignant scenes are few and far between; Damon and Howard's heart-wrenching dinner date being one of the only moments to leave a lasting impression. (At least of the quieter, character-centric moments that don't involve Tsunamis, tragic deaths or terrorist attacks.)
At least Hereafter gave me a chance to reflect on my time on the planet. My epiphany? Life is too short to waste on middle-of-the-supernatural-highway roadkill like Hereafter.
Hereafter Blu-ray, Video Quality
Hereafter may stagger along, but Warner's striking 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer doesn't stumble for a second. Blessed with everything filmfans should expect from a recent theatrical release -- utter respect for its filmmakers' solemn palette and photography, cool but confident colors, natural primaries, lifelike skintones, bottomless blacks, impeccable contrast leveling and remarkable detail -- the presentation is impressive to say the least. While the CG featured in the Tsunami sequence isn't flawless enough to stand up to high definition scrutiny, fine textures are beautifully resolved, delineation is both filmic and flattering, and edge definition, despite the appearance of some extremely minor ringing, is crisp, clean and consistent. Better still, I didn't detect any artifacting, aliasing, banding, aberrant smearing, unsightly noise or any other notable oddities. Granted, some intermittent crush is apparent, mainly when George turns in for the night, but it never becomes a distraction, certainly not one that should be cause for any concern.
Hereafter Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The distant rumble of a terrifying tsunami, the roar of rushing water, the ethereal hum of the Great Beyond, the deafening clamor of a restless factory, the startling fury of an underground explosion, the screams of a panicked crowd... make no mistake, Hereafter's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track has far more to deal with than hushed conversations, quiet contemplation and somber melodrama. Dialogue, whether whispered or exclaimed, is clear, weighty and perfectly intelligible throughout, but it's the LFE channel persuasive power and the rear speakers' precision and persistence that make Hereafter's mix so immersive and invigorating. Low-end effects have remarkable presence, ambience is disarmingly believable, interior acoustics are impressive, directionality is decisive and convincing, and pans are gentle and smooth. Moreover, Eastwood's lovelorn score haunts the soundfield beautifully, serenading the streets of Paris and drifting across the hills of San Francisco with enchanting ease. A few of the film's London locales struck me as a tad restrained, but no matter; Hereafter's lossless mix is the Blu-ray edition's greatest asset.
Projection note: the French subtitles that appear throughout the Marie/Didier storyline are situated overtop of the black bar at the bottom of the screen. View an example of the subtitle positioning here.
Hereafter Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
No flash, no frills, no filler. Instead, the Blu-ray edition of Hereafter serves up just two special features: a decent suite of nine behind-the-scenes featurettes and an extended version of The Eastwood Factor, an excellent two-hour documentary that, until now, was only available on DVD. Frankly, it's worth the price of admission alone.
Hereafter Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Cinephiles can do a lot better than Hereafter, especially if they turn to the rest of Eastwood's canon. Still, Warner's smartly priced Blu-ray release deserves consideration, if for no other reason than that it includes the extended version of Richard Schickel's feature-length documentary, The Eastwood Factor (in high definition no less). Factor in Hereafter's exceptional video transfer and extraordinary DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track and you have a release that just might be worth your hard-earned cash. Even if you loathe the film itself, this is probably your only chance to get The Eastwood Factor on Blu-ray.
Hereafter: Other Editions
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Hereafter Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Hereafter Blu-ray to Benefit Japan Earthquake Relief - March 16, 2011
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group has announced that part of the proceeds from sales of the Blu-ray and DVD of Hereafter (which streeted yesterday) will go towards relief efforts in earthquake-stricken Japan. The amount of the donation has not been disclosed, ...
• This Week on Blu-ray - March 15-21 - March 15, 2011
Depending on who you ask, the sport of boxing is either on the brink of a spectacular comeback in popularity, or stuck in a downward spiral towards an era where mixed martial arts dominated the fighting scene. Regardless, one thing has remained constant through ...
• Hereafter Blu-ray Announced - January 5, 2011
Warner Home Video has announced Hereafter for Blu-ray release on March 15, in a BD/DVD/Digital Copy combo pack. The latest movie directed by veteran filmmaker Clint Eastwood, Hereafter stars Matt Damon as a blue-collar American with a special connection to the ...
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