Saturday, 29 January 2011

'Hereafter' Review

'Hereafter' (dir: Clint Eastwood, 2010/2011), Cert: 12A

Clint Eastwood is basically a dictionary definition of cinema nowadays. Known and adored worldwide for his variety of contributions to the industry, whether it be acting, producing or directing, he seems totally unstoppable and has been that since he made his screen debut in the late 50s. Eastwood is usually in the running for a bunch of Oscars every time he makes a movie; however his latest picture, ‘Hereafter’, has only been nominated for one in the Visual Effects category. Clint’s films usually land nominations in the top 5 categories and gain mass critical acclaim, but many critics have snubbed his latest and it’s certainly left a mark. So is Clint really down on his luck this year, or are some just been a little too critical?

 ‘Hereafter’ follows the stories of three people, George Lonegan (Matt Damon), Marie LeLay (Cecile De France) and Marcus (Frankie McLaren) who have all been affected by death. Lonegan is a blue-collar American who used to be a psychic but stopped due to it invading his life, LeLay is a successful French woman who has a near-death experience and Marcus is a young British twin whose brother passes away. The events that surround these people question the meaning of death, and what happens when it arrives. The group crosses paths and lives, leaving the thought of an after-life and contacting the dead to be the only thing to keep everyone going.
 I am a huge fan of Eastwood and I think he has a great eye for directing; he keeps things simple and pr├ęcised, attention to detail is pressed upon and he never seems to let the camera get too silly and hyperactive. ‘Hereafter’ is a character-driven picture so virtually every scene has one of the three leads present and Eastwood knows how to direct his actors. Although a large quantity of this film has famous faces filling the screen, it does sport some great special effects that may only come in small bursts, but are really affecting and realistic. The opening 10 minutes of this film is breathtaking and comes as quite a shock.
 I think many critics have been unfair to this film; it’s certainly not up there with his best, but this is far from Eastwood’s worst film and I think many have been stubborn towards it because of its subject matter. At points, this film does feel a little preachy and religious but its characters aren’t; they are just people who have been affected by the unexplainable which many just see as a signifier for Christianity. ‘Hereafter’ does have a few problems however; at points it does feel baggy and drawn-out, and the overly forced British accents do remind the viewer of Dick Van Dyke in ‘Mary Poppins’ (1964), but overall I found this picture to be a pleasant surprise and I am annoyed that it’s been so down-trodden.
 The performances are all to a very good standard but Damon is clearly the stand-out; he is really believable as George, a man who’s desperate to escape his past and move on but nothing will allow him too. Damon is an incredible actor; one of the best working today and his diversity and charisma is what’s keeping him so watchable, and he gives a better performance here than in Eastwood’s last, ‘Invictus’ (2009).
 I’m certain this will divide audiences and many will question the film’s messages and meanings, but I was really impressed by it. It’s far from perfect and it does have some niggles but ‘Hereafter’ understands itself as being a piece of character cinema and runs with it wrapping the audience up in it’s often crippling emotion. Regardless of what you may have read or heard, go see this movie, even if it is out of intrigue.

Unfairly battered by most; ‘Hereafter’ is visually arresting, engaging and Damon’s performance is fantastic.
By Chris Haydon      

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