Hereafter Review

Hereafter is a conceptually powerful film, focused on three people dealing with radically different aspects of death. George (Matt Damon) is a powerful psychic after undergoing a childhood surgery for an infection near his brain stem, giving a real world plausibility to something more people consider implausible. Marie (Cecile De France) is suffering from the after effects of a near-death experience amidst the Haiti tsunami, changing her life forever. Marcus (twins Frankie and George McLaren) is dealing with the traumatic loss of his brother, and has questions.

It is inevitable and obvious these three will come together, although the circumstances under which that will happen remains a mystery. They all offer something for the other, although the script weighs heavily on George’s fears created from his mental gift. He almost seems to hate it, running away when given the chance for success, the emotional toll of telling people what their deceased loved ones feel and think a burden.

That leaves the other two parts of this narrative flatter in comparison, their segments taking on a slightly more plodding approach, although the emotional toll is felt. Both Marie and Marcus seem lost, the focus of their lives becoming death, even if it’s for different reasons. They look everywhere, Marcus visiting a series of kook psychics who fail to give him the information, his foster family at a loss with what to do.

Hereafter doesn’t give or force any answers; the only belief it shares is that there is an afterife and communication is possible. Dependent on personal feelings, the material most likely won’t offend any specific denomination, the brief flashes of some plane of existence barely visible, and the visits existing only in a flash.

Clint Eastwood does it all yet again, directing, producing, even composing a haunting score that can suit both paths, from the melancholy to the celebratory. It’s a beautiful backdrop, extracting the emotion necessary from any given scene. Hereafter isn’t some grand disaster movie as trailers have suggested, although the home video release probably could not have been inadvertently timed as poorly as it is right now with its gut-wrenching opening tragedy. It’s about what happens after to those that made it through, not physically, but emotionally. This is pure drama, and brilliantly constructed.

Movie ★★★★☆ 

Oh Warner, you silly, silly encoders. Why do you hate us so, or maybe it’s just a Clint Eastwood thing? Hereafter mimics Invictus in every way in terms of this transfer, riddled with the same level of deplorable aliasing as that previous release. It’s as if fine lines are impossible to resolve with any accuracy, even though no one else seems to have any trouble handling them. Shots of the tsunami destruction at 8:49 is the first time the faults become obvious, rubble flickering as the camera pans.

Anything, from a laptop sitting on a desk to a building’s front window (the night class at 34:59 makes a few appearances, always with the same problem) suffers the effects. There is little relief, even if the flaw hinders a small portion of the frame.

This isn’t the greatest encode beyond the jagged edges though. Warner’s typical little tricks lead to inconsistent ringing along high contrast edges, occasional shots that appear muddy and indistinct, all while going along with the rampant noise that dominates all of the darker walls. The grain seems finely resolved in general until the lights go out, and that’s quite often here.

Mercifully, Hereafter is graced with exceptional black levels, always in check with what the scene requires. During the first reading, Damon’s profile is backlit, the room only featuring a slight hint of light. There are no instances or angles where the density of the blacks is lost. The same goes for all later scenes as well, the tremendous depth wrung out from every frame.

Close-ups generally exhibit resolved, exceptional detail, again the same qualities that dominated Invictus. A few focal issues exist here and there, those minor distractions mitigated within a single edit typically. Strong, bold, saturated colors are not typical for a drama, yet offer the film some weight that heightens impact from those foggy views of the afterlife. Tough call, but the aliasing will likely be easily passed over by many for the grand detail and overall depth.

Video ★★★★☆ 

Each time George takes viewers into his visions, they’re greeted with a full bodied jolt of low-end support. The effect is superb, an audible cue that a transfer has happened and is crucial to the film as a whole.

Not many will find the ambiance impressive, although that’s not the fault of the mixing. There is quite a bit of it to go around, including the factory George works in at 33:53 to the city streets of various locations. It’s a rich experience.

Still, that’s all overshadowed by two disasters, the opening tsunami and the London subway bombings. While stating how spectacular a tsunami sounds isn’t exactly in proper taste right now (especially given that this one is based on real events as well), it’s not the sound designers fault that similar tragic disasters happen to envelop the news around the home video release either. Credit is still due for their work, the rushing water dominating the sub while electrical lines topple from the force in all channels. The bombs going off establish tremendous surround use just prior, and the panic that follows is as flawless as rear speaker use can become.

Audio ★★★★☆ 

There are only two things inside the special features, the first being The Eastwood Factor, a nearly 90-minute look at Eastwood’s storied career, narrated by Morgan Freeman… because that’s what Morgan Freeman does. This isn’t specifically related to Hereafter, although still relevant. Focus Points is a pop-up feature, the clips available separately in nine sections that total 42-minutes. They detail the film as a whole and in detail.

Extras ★★★☆☆ 

  • Gary76

    >.Hereafter doesn’t give or force any answers; the only belief it shares is that there is an afterife and communication is possible.

    It’s a wonderful film but I don’t agree with this at all. I found the movie determinedly ambiguous about the possibility of an afterlife. It’s also highly debatable whether Damon is actually talking to the dead (see him chatting with any ghosts? Nope me neither) or simply has some sort of telepathic ability to read the minds of his subjects. What I appreciated is that after asking about death (questions to which nobody can reasonably know and wisely the film doesn’t try to answer) the movie comes back to earth and suggests that the connections we make with others in this life are what truly count.

  • Anonymous

    That’s something I never considered, but we DO get those flashes of something on a different plane of existence. I do like the idea that these are visions inside living people’s heads though (subconscious maybe), although the title would certainly suggest otherwise, no?

    And for the record, read some other reviews when this was finished and was surprised to see this didn’t do well overall. Maybe some of the material was too soon, or even too close to home.

  • Gary76

    “That’s something I never considered, but we DO get those flashes of something on a different plane of existence.”

    Well all we get are images of the subjects themselves. As you say, if George has some telepathic ability then it’s not hard to see where those (idealized?) images come from, i.e., from the minds of his subjects.

    It’s also worth noting that aside from passing on ‘messages’ George has never had any kind of vision of the afterlife. There’s nothing in the film to suggest he has any idea about that and indeed he confirms as much at the end when he tells Marcus that he simply doesn’t know what happens when you die.

    It’s just my opinion but I just don’t think the film ever equivocally says that ‘Yes, this guy is genuinely talking to the dead’ and given that neither Eastwood nor Peter Morgan believe in life after death and that the film pretty clearly comes down on the side of living the life you have in this world I don’t think that ambiguity is accidental. And it is ambiguity. It’s not a flat out denial of the possibility of an afterlife so much as a simple ‘we don’t know’ tinged with mystery (that terrific scene on the London Underground – might have been coincidence that saved the kid’s life, might have been something more).