Starring: Matt Damon, Cecile De France, Charlie Creed-Miles, Rebekah Staton, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jay Mohr, Richard Kind, Thierry Neuvic

Director: Clint Eastwood

Writer: Peter Morgan

Cinematography: Tom Stern

Original Score: Clint Eastwood

Running Time: 129 Mins.

Hereafter comes to us amidst a wave of middling (at best) to downright-bad press from US critics and a certifiable flop at the box-office, certainly considering the pedigree which means that despite all the negativity it is an intriguing prospect of a film. Directed by Eastwood, tackling yet another genre and even at the age of 81 years of age proving he is far from stuck in his ways, and produced by Spielberg, though he does seem to find himself attached to all and sundry lately (Transformers for a start!) and scripted by Peter Morgan, who has turned in some brilliant character pieces with real dramatic thrust (The Queen and Frost/Nixon), and you have the elements for something special, especially given that this is a film tackling the afterlife.

All of which begs the question as to where it all went wrong? Or if indeed the US critics were the ones in the wrong, misunderstanding or expecting more from such high calibre input… The simple answer is that Hereafter is a perfectly fine piece of film-making, and maybe people expected more, audience and critics alike. Though fine hardly qualifies as a glowing endorsement Eastwood on an off day is usually better than most of the other drivel on release at the time.He is a man, who as said before is not content to rest on his laurels when it comes to genre, however there is enough of a mark in his style to do more than merely hnt that you’re watching something with his fingerprints all over it.

He isn’t flashy and never favours showing off, every scene feels full of purpose though not in a hurried way, far from it we know by now he likes to take his time, we spend stretches with people doing nothing for tens of seconds at a time, this may not sound much but in the stretch of a film it is, every shot feels purposeful with intent, details we know may become important later, characters given time to simply grow without a word, this is a master at work and when he has actors such as Damn (excellent, downplayed) and Bryce Dallas Howard (sweet and fragile, but all too brief) you could enjoy their scenes silence for quite some time.

But as with his last few efforts (Gran Torino and Inviction to name but two) the cast is filled out with amateurs. the twin boys in London are the main problem, and as good a director the great man is he simply cannot guide his young actors towards a convincing turn. This wouldn’t matter so much if them conveying real characters wasn’t as key to the emotional thrust of the plot as it is, likewise Cecile De France (who is usually a very good actress) seems lost for the films majority, and makes it nigh on impossible to find any empathy for her character. These are grave mis-steps as the film takes the form of three strands, converging rather forcefully at the end, meaning that of three only one proves both convincing AND enjoyably interesting.

That’s not to say those threads are a total disaster, an opening tsunami sets a deceptive tone, riling you up emotionally from the off with elements of a better overall and less disjointed film to be found somewhere, and each strand has its own look or feel. They are all so clearly Eastwood but he tackles the London-based scenes nicely avoiding an overhaul of clich√© with red-buses only fleetingly seen and big ben simply there to give us some sense of place and time though edging towards Ken Loach territory with druggie mothers and likes like “now we can be a real family” feeling very un-Eastwood like. But bearing in mind that Spielberg was set to direct initially we probably had a lucky escape in terms of the schmaltz factor!

VERDICT

Hereafter is a work-man-like effort for Eastwood, never stretching himself (oddly considering such unique subject matter) the opening sets the emotion high, though this is a film of three parts and only one can keep up that momentum fully with some great work by Damon that is sadly balanced out by a bunch of amateurs in London. Sadly not as good, or intriguing, as it should have been.

 

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