Now here is a real curio of a movie, and if it had not been for the fact that Clint Eastwood directed it it would probably have been a hard sell to the studio execs. Three stories spanning three countries all connected by an afterlife theme that converge in a final scene. Eastwood has never dabbled in the fantasy genre before, so this marks a very interesting departure for him. For his lead he chose Matt Damon as a reluctant psychic, someone who he had worked with and had a good experience only two years before on Invictus, and it is this decision that makes the movie work.
The movie opens with a stunning sequence that depicts the horror of the 2004 tsunami and a near death experience. It continues with the introduction of a further two story strands involving Damon in San Francisco and twin English boys in London. The three stories are handled very differently and the constant round robin nature of the stories is quite distracting, particularly as the French and English parts are not as strong. The 12 year-old unknown twins were chosen as Eastwood wanted kids who could give a natural performance not affected by stage school mannerisms. Unfortunately their inexperience and poor screen presence shows and threatens to derail the film.
Belgian actress Cecile De France gives a very heartfelt and earnest performance of an unsympathetic character but her scenes are dull and only serve to slow things down. When her story is taking centre stage you find yourself waiting for it to move back to Damon’s strand in America which is a shame as her story is perhaps the most important.
Damon, however, is on terrific form as a man cursed with the ability to communicate with the dead. His failure to connect with the living, finding romance in the form of Bryce Dallas Howard, is heart breaking. It is this section of the movie which pulls things together and you want more of it. There are no showy sequences or disasters in Damon’s story unlike the the other two which not only encompass the afore-mentioned tsunami but also the London terrorist bombings of 2005.
The final scenes that bring the threads together are convoluted and a bit daft, but for all the negatives the movie is entertaining enough to make you want to watch it through to the end. Damon’s performance alone makes this more than worthwhile. Hereafter is an interesting misfire and mishmash that will will elicit very mixed opinions.
Watch this is if you liked: Matt Damon… just don’t expect The Sixth Sense
Titbit: This marks the third collaboration between Clint Eastwood and Steven Spielberg after Flags of our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima.