Reaction to Eastwood's Hereafter

My wife and I went to see Clint Eastwood's latest film Hereafter last night.  It has been getting mixed reviews, with positive and negative reaction split almost right down the middle -- according to the compilations by RottenTomatoes.com, 51% of all critics liked it (although the number goes up to 64% when counting only the so-called "top critics") and 54% of "audience votes" liking it.

Here are my thoughts.  Read no further if you want to avoid all spoilers.

The movie follows three storylines, which eventually interconnect in the end -- a French journalist who has a near-death experience during a tsunami disaster, an American psychic who is trying to start a new life for himself, and a young, timid London boy who loses his twin brother in a tragic accident.

The film benefits from terrific performances by its stars, the wonderful Cecile de France, the always enjoyable Matt Damon, and the excellent (if sometimes creepy) brothers Frankie and George McLaren.  The supporting cast also does a fine job: Jay Mohr, Bryce Dallas Howard, Thierry Neuvic, Richard Kind, Steve Schirripa, and others.

I was surprised that Eastwood chose to show glimpses of the visions of the characters Marie De Lay and George Lonegan.  I thought it might have worked better if the powers of the psychic and the glimpses of the afterlife were more ambiguous, letting the believers and the skeptics in the audience draw their own conclusions.  I know that pop culture is loaded with ghost hunters and other paranormal investigators, so there is definitely a market for such a tale.  But I thought Eastwood's talents as a filmmaker might have served the story better if he was more subtle with the supernatural aspects and more quickpaced with the telling of it.

Another nice moment that deserved to be expanded was the contrast between the charlatan seers who use people's grief for their own profit compared to Damon's character's sincerity.  The core of the plot is Lonegan's conflict between his desire to help people find some emotional peace while he himself is burdened by the negative impact of the gift (which he perceives as a curse) on his own personal life.

I am still amazed that Clint Eastwood can deliver so many interesting movies at this late stage of his impressive career.  He has revisited genres that have been the foundation of his past filmography, redefining the Western hero in Unforgiven and the vigilante in Gran Torino.  I guess I should not be surprised that he is now looking at stories about mortality.  Hereafter has some nice moments, making some movie goers shed a tear or two, but it ultimately fails to live up to its potential.

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