TIFF Movie Review: Clint Eastwood's Hereafter

Clint Eastwood's new film Hereafter is one of the most talked about films going into this year's festival. When the schedule for the festival was announced, it featured one sole performance, and no press screenings.

Industry bloggers threw a fuss and Warner Bros responded that they planned to have a press screening sometime on the first Saturday of the festival. And they followed through with that promise. TIFF Press received an e-mail less than two hours before the newly announced screening. Most critics learned about the screening after it was too late. And what kind of screening room did they find to screen this highly anticipated movie? One that fit less than 140 people. To give you perspective, the biggest press screening room fits 557 people (I know this because we just saw Dustin Lance Black's directorial debut on that screen).

Why would Warner Bros be so elusive about a press screening? Why screen the film only once publicly? Could it possibly be THAT bad? Might they be trying to prevent bad buzz from spreading fast? And if so, why submit the film to a film festival in the first place?

Update: I have talked to someone involved who says the press screening was scheduled weeks in advance. But the information was not available on any of the press schedule board updates. So I'm not sure why the majority of press were only alerted of it an hour and forty five minutes before the screening.

I can't answer any of the questions above, but I can tell you what I thought of the film.

Regardless of what you may have heard elsewhere, this is definitely not Eastwood's worst film to date. It's oddly compelling, and will keep you watching. That's the biggest compliment I can give the film, as it doesn't offer anything more. And for a movie directed by Academy Award-winning Eastwood, written by Peter Morgan, the Academy Award nominated writer of The Queen, Frost/Nixon, and starring Matt Damon and Bryce Dallas Howard, you might be expecting a lot more. Here is the official plot synopsis from IMDB:

A supernatural thriller centered on three people — a blue-collar American, a French journalist and a London school boy — who are touched by death in different ways.

Strangely, this plot synopsis barely describes the film. I couldn't consider this film a thriller in any sense of the word. Yes, the plot has a supernatural device: Some people who die and are brought back to life now have psychic abilities which allow them to talk to the dead. Damon plays a psychic named George who is trying to move past his abilities, which he considers more of a curse than a gift. A French television journalist Marie (played by Cécile De France) dies for a minute during a Tsunami, and is trying to cope with her new abilities. And a London school boy is trying to cope with the loss of a loved one. These three storylines are not at all connected until the end when they converge without any real believable explanation. Also, Jay Moher plays George's brother, who is trying to get him back in business as a psychic. And Howard plays a woman that George meets at a cooking class.

The film begins with a Tsunami sequence which is something you would better expect from a Rolland Emmerich film. While the special effects are nothing to write home about, the perspective in which Eastwood shoots this disaster sequence shows you the difference in talent between a popcorn action filmmaker like Emmerich and a character director like Eastwood. And while this film might begin with a big bang, a huge action sequence, the rest of the film mostly consists of people talking about how they don't like talking to the dead, how they want to discover more about talking to the dead, or researching how it might be possible to talk to the dead. There is little dramatic tension and very little plot motivation.

I read somewhere that Steven Spielberg, who executive produced the film, was concerned that the film begins big and ends small. Someone probably should have listened to Spielberg. He might know something about this movie making thing.

The characters are interesting to a point, but the story doesn't really go anywhere. And, like I said, when it actually does have some forward momentum, it ends up in a place that trumps logic and we're asked to believe that it was all a matter of fate (or something). Coincidences are bad storytelling. And Hereafter ends on some logically-laughable coincidences.

/Film Rating: 6.5 out of 10