REVIEW ROUND UP: ‘Hereafter’ at TIFF

Clint Eastwood’s most recent films have divided audiences rather distinctively with older critics seeming to embrace them and younger online critics rejecting them. The most recent example is his film Gran Torino, which I thought was too silly to be taken seriously for its allegorical themes, but Roger Ebert gave 3.5 stars. I suspect that Eastwood’s most recent film Hereafter might divide critics similarly as it tackles themes of morbidity and the after-life.

The film was recently screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and has received a mostly mixed response with Eastwood lovers praising it and others dismissing it as a non-contender at a Festival filled with great cinema. Below is a break down of the positive and negative reviews:

POSITIVE

Todd McCarthy of indieWIRE’s Deep Focus has few criticisms for the film and praises it for its open-mindedness:

That said, the film has distinctive ambitions, visits unusual places and creates a special mood that are somewhere in the neighborhood of haunting, an achievement enhanced by the director’s own musical score and Tom Stern’s atmospheric cinematography, which also features a moving camera more than is the norm in Eastwood’s films. It’s an offbeat, unexpected work with a thoughtful, rational approach to material usually dealt with in hyperbolic, sensationalistic terms.

Roger Ebert, ever the Eastwood aficionado, has high praise for Eastwood’s directing effort and the performances that he derives from his excellent cast:

Eastwood and his actors achieve a tone that never forces the material but embraces it. It is never dreamlike, but it could be described as evoking a reverie state. These people are not hurtling toward the resolution of a plot. There is no “solution” to their stories. There are various degrees of solace, or not. They don’t punch the dialogue. They don’t “act.” They lack the certainty to impose themselves. Damon in particular is reserved and sad, because of a power that has become a burden to him. “Hereafter” is unlike any film Clint Eastwood has ever made, but you’d think he’d been preparing it for years.

Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter has high praise for the film, even though he admits that the film’s ending was “facile”:

Clint Eastwood continues his search for challenging stories that delve into extreme reaches of the human condition in “Hereafter,” a globetrotting inquiry into the nature of the afterlife. The film also marks an unexpected turn in the screenwriting of Peter Morgan, away from his survey of political personalities in such films as “The Queen” and “Frost/Nixon” and into metaphysical speculation. The film never is less than intriguing, right from its tour de force opening sequence, and often full of insights into why people long for answers, sometimes with great urgency.

Mark Adams of Screen seems to be one of the few critics who loved the film’s ending:

Clint Eastwood takes a bold change of pace with Hereafter, a compelling and thoughtfully structured delve into the world of the supernatural, weaving together three separate storylines that all finally converge to satisfying effect. This is no spooky chiller though…instead a fascinating look at how death affects a series of completely different people.

NEGATIVE

Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere who championed Gran Torino thinks that Hereafter is a huge departure for Eastwood and the film fails as a result:

Banal. Okay, so-so, mild, auto-pilot, meh. Matt Damon is good — I believed his readings and conveyances. But some of the dialogue (including some of Damon’s) is too flat, too on-the-nose. And those teardrops falling down those cheeks…twice! I will however give points — everyone will — to the Southeast Asian tsunami sequence that opens the film. It’s quite thrilling, scary…although it does, truth be told, ‘look’ like CG.

Sam C. Mac of The Playlist has mostly negative things to say about the film despite giving it a C+. However, he does suggest that the problems with the film are not completely Eastwood’s fault:

It’s great to see Eastwood getting back to a more intimate mode, and it’s refreshing to see a film with spiritual inclinations largely avoid the topic of religion, but even the most staunch Eastwood defender won’t deny “Hereafter” is severely compromised. It’s failed by a frequently inept screenplay, especially in its final act, and by plainly generic dialogue (not once but twice does Damon’s character espouse the angst-ridden cliche, “It’s not a gift, it’s a curse!”). Not even with a reliably strong score and evocative use of shadow and contrast can the director consistently make his roundelay narrative as engaging as it needs to be.

Eric Childress of Cinematical does place much of the blame for the film’s failure on Clint’s directing effort calling it one of his worst films:

Eliminate science from the discussion altogether and this still leaves much to the imagination of those whose hearts are invested in the proverbial angels and demons. Those willing to forgive Eastwood’s direction on the principle of some European sensibility are forgetting how low-key (even with its doses of grandiose sentiment) his dramas have always been. It is doubtful that any of ‘Hereafter’s defenders can say that it holds a candle next to the likes of ‘A Perfect World’, ‘The Bridges of Madison County’ or ‘Million Dollar Baby’ unless the intention was to burn it. More likely they will be including’ Hereafter’ amongst titles like ‘Blood Work’, ‘The Rookie’ and ‘Breezy’, arguably the worst of his directorial career now being challenged with perhaps the very worst.

Peter Sciretta of /Film seems to echo a lot of my thoughts on Gran Torino saying that Hereafter has an ending that is so laughably bad it ruins much of the decent storytelling up to that point:

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.

CONCLUSION

There were a handful of other reviews posted, but the overall result seems to be a split. It seems to echo the Eastwood movie trend where the older, more established critics love it while the younger online generation doesn’t care for it. The Academy consists of a large percentage of older members that have a lot of sway, but Eastwood’s past several films that were greeted with a similar reaction (Invictus, Gran Torino) were non-players at the Oscars. I predict the same fate may be in store for Hereafter.

What do you think of the film’s Oscar potential?

[Image: Screen]

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  • Davin Lacksonen

    I stand by saying: not a chance!

  • Andrew R.

    Out of the running. Sorry, Clint.

  • Gran Torino is indeed silly. It turned me off Eastwood completely, I have yet to see Invictus. This sounds terrible. I hate to miss another Damon performance, but it looks I’m gonna.

  • Jake G.

    I think it will get a Best Picture Nomination!!! Especially with 10 Nominations!

  • Jose

    I called it a while back! Murtada you’re not missing much by not seeing Invictus.

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