Clint Eastwood's Spaghetti Western days with directing legend Sergio Leone taught him how to do a movie. He has mastered the art of storytelling. That mastery has made Eastwood one of the great directors of all-time. Life often unfolds slowly and, to give us a sense of real life, scripts and actors need room to breathe.
Eastwood's patient storytelling style gives them that space.
Ironically, that skill is Hereafter's undoing. What could have been an interesting exploration of the gateway to eternity takes an uncomfortable eternity to get to the point.
Eastwood's movie looks at the hereafter from three points of view. The first character is done by Cecile De France. She plays one of France's hot media stars. On vacation her character gets caught in a tsunami and dies. Brought back to life, she can't shake the bright light and shapes and shadows she saw in her brief encounter with what she ultimately defines, the hereafter.
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The second point of view is the lost loved one. Frankie and George McLaren play 12-year old twin boys Marcus and Jason. They live unhappy lives in London with their junkie mother. Jason is hit by a car and dies. Marcus can't get over it. He has things he wants to hear from his brother and seeks out psychics to help.
The third character is done by Matt Damon. He can communicate with the dead and was - at one time - very famous. Life spent talking to the dead isn't life. So he quit and, unsuccessfully, tries to remain anonymous.
This should be horror movie territory. At the very least it ought to be intense. Hereafter is neither. Early on the tsunami has you biting your nails and so does the death of Jason. Then the story settles down and for the next hour and 45 minutes plods slowly toward a conclusion.
The movie's only plusses are Eastwood's storytelling skill and the ability of screenwriter Peter Morgan ( The Queen, Frost/Nixon) to give his characters the multiple dimensions of personality needed to at least keep you somewhat interested in what happens to them.
Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It opens Friday, October 22 at Regal's Columbia Center 8 and at the Fairchild Cinemas 12.
Mr. Movie rating: 3 1/2 stars
5 stars/4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars / 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie
3 stars / 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD
2 stars / 1 star: Don't bother
0 stars: Speaks for itself