| Director Clint Eastwood (“Invictus,” “Mystic River” and “Million Dollar Baby”), age 80, in a script by Peter Morgan (“The Queen” and “Frost/Nixon”), poses the big question of what happens to us when we die. His characters research the subject with a Google search. The closest this boring melodrama gets to the answer is the remarkable similarity in accounts of people who have had near-death experiences.
The fractured narrative borrows from the style of “Babel” with three separate disjointed stories taking place on three different continents. Marie LeLay (French actress Cecile De France) is a famous French investigative television journalist vacationing with her married production boss in a tropical beach town in Asia on the Indian Ocean. She barely survives a devastating tsunami that drags her underwater. She is struck in the back of the head by a metal object and has an out-of-body experience. There are white lights, a feeling of weightlessness and blurry visions of people coming to greet her.
She flies back to Paris a changed woman and takes a hiatus from her job. She researches death and the afterlife, then writes a book titled “Hereafter: The Conspiracy of Silence.”
This entire third of the movie is in French with English subtitles.
The second strand revolves around Marcus (Frankie McLaren) and Jason (George McLaren), 12-year-old twin brothers living in London with their irresponsible, drug-addicted mother. They are under investigation by child protective services looking to place them with a foster family.
Since Marcus hasn’t done his homework, Jason is sent to the drugstore to pick up a prescription for his mother. He is bullied by a street gang and then killed after being struck in the street by a van. Marcus is left despondent, suffering from grief and loneliness.
He starts wearing his dead brother’s baseball cap. It gets knocked off his head and in an effort to retrieve it he misses the subway. It is a good thing since the train explodes as a result of an underground bombing.
The third segment stars Matt Damon (“Invictus,” “The Bourne Supremacy” and “Good Will Hunting”) as a blue-collar American living in San Francisco. George Lonegan (Damon) is clearly uncomfortable when his older brother Billy (Jay Mohr from “Gary Unmarried” and “Family Guy”) coerces him into giving a psychic reading to an important client (Richard Kind from “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “A Serious Man”).
George had a brain operation as a child which gave him the ability to establish “connections” with people who have passed on. He views this gift as a curse that detracts from leading a normal life.
He works as a forklift operator in a factory. He takes an adult education cooking class. The instructor is Carlo (Steve Schirripa from “The Sopranos”), an Italian chef who provides the movie’s only humor within the classroom setting. George is paired up with Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard from “Terminator Salvation,” “Spider-Man 3” and “The Village”). They chop up tomatoes and take a page out of “Nine 1/2 Weeks” with a blindfolded taste test.
She is on the rebound from being dumped by a fiancé. She becomes curious after learning of George’s ability to commune with dead people.
She pulls away when he discovers a disturbing fact from her past revealed through the spirit of her deceased father.
A ridiculous coincidental ending brings the three main characters together at a London book fair.
The trio of Eastwood, Morgan and Damon has provided moviegoers with so many fantastic movies that they can be forgiven for this stinker. They seem out of their league channeling M. Night Shyamalan and his “I see dead people” cult hit “The Sixth Sense.” Damon is like a bump on a log with a stoic personality utterly devoid of emotion. Eastwood’s piano and acoustic guitar-heavy score doesn’t work. It just adds another melancholy layer to an already depressingly morbid subject.
The movie’s only strength is the spectacular computer-generated special effects of the tidal waves triggered by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and the explosion during morning rush hour of London’s public transport system from a series of al-Qaeda associated suicide bombing attacks on July 7, 2005.
The movie drags along with a slow pace that becomes tedious. Viewers will find themselves constantly checking their watch and looking for the exit signs.
This movie flat lines in less than an hour and doesn’t deserve an afterlife on either DVD or cable television. The critics’ guiding principle of “we see them, so you don’t have to” is clearly applicable in this case. This movie is a lock to make my year-end worst 10 list.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"