Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hereafter. B+


I'm hardly a proponent of the uninspired spiritual dimension that many have cited as the strength and vital point of Hereafter. Like the visions one of the characters has after a tsunami nearly takes her life, the questions raised about the state of a person after death are blurred and murky, silly and shallow rather than moving and provocative. And I really think the story that writer Peter Morgan has going on here is stupid and contrived, an indication that his historical works (The Queen, Frost/Nixon) are his power and that he has no right to tackling this material. The movie somewhat shatters his intelligence. Yet through all this Clint Eastwood has still managed to make a good movie. It's a deeply sentimental film, yet Eastwood pulls back in nearly every instance in which the movie could have become cloying. His sense of restraint is key to the success of many of his best movies. He knows when to let an actor let loose, but he rarely if ever lets them. His movies are often described as tender, which is exactly what Hereafter is. There are three stories being told here, but I wish it just told one, Matt Damon's, in which a psychic tries to escape his gift by calling it a curse. Damon is a real master at the low key stuff, so it makes sense why he may now be an Eastwood regular. The scenes with Damon, set in San Francisco, are as good as anything he or Eastwood has ever committed to a movie. Hereafter is actually worth seeing more for the humanity it's infused with rather than the dead spirituality it seems so concerned with. It's worth seeing to witness how emotion should be handled in a movie. I never become annoyed, I never rolled my eyes, because all the performances are so tame and controlled. Of course, the movie gets completely out of hand in the final twenty minutes, a real disappointment and a departure from the subtle approach Eastwood and Morgan had been taking for so much of the film. Essentially it stops being a French film and becomes a Hollywood one. The ending really does that retarded poster justice.

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