There’s no question that Clint Eastwood is a strong director. He wrings emotion out of character and picks compelling material to use as his canvass. Each of his films becomes events to anticipate and they are usually fare to savor. As a result, Hereafter, out last year, proved to be so disappointing. This time his canvass was the great beyond, or what we think Heaven might be like, so that’s a huge starting point with great potential. A man like Eastwood, who acts and directs with economy, probably has some interesting ideas on the concept.
Somehow, though, there’s nothing at all interesting here. Eastwood directs from Peter Morgan’s script and this was a man who made the making of the Frost/Nixon interviews compelling material. He is given a gifted cast headed by Matt Damon, who immediately hooks his audience and is a sympathetic hero. He heads one of three storylines that propels the movie along but nothing concludes or intertwines as you expect and you wind up feeling disappointed by the entire experience.
There’s French television journalist Marie (Cécile de France) who survived a tsunami; then there’s young Marcus (Frankie and George McLaren) who grieves for the loss of his twin brother and his grieving, heroin-addicted mother (Lyndsey Marshal); and finally Damon, a psychic who now toils in a sugar factory. Unlike the others, he can talk to the dead but has grown weary of seeing everyone’s pain. The glimpses into the afterlife have taken their toll, despite the fact that we discover things are okay once we die. Since these threads never converge or payoff in anything remotely resembling a satisfactory way, you walk out after two-plus hours and wonder what the fuss was all about.
Each story has its interesting and fascinating bits and pieces but they never amount to anything. Characters come and go, such as the woman (Bryce Dallas Howard) who has a brief romance with Damon’s lost soul or Marie’s lover Didier (Thierry Neuvic). Thus, we’re left with an aimless story without much of a point of view that wastes the audience’s time along with the talents of the director and his cast. You come in expecting to be blown away and walk away shaking your head and wondering what went wrong.
The movie, now out on Blu-ray from Warner Home Video, looks great with a strong transfer and excellent sound. Warner was clearly disappointed with the audience reception to the movie and offers up a few extras to round out the disc. There a collection of nine behind-the-scenes featurettes and The Eastwood Factor, a documentary making its Blu-ray debut in extended form. This proves more entertaining than the movie itself as writer, director, and film critic Richard Schickel explores the man, his career and his work. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, it is everything you want in a documentary.