Boring us to death


In the first decade of the millennium it seemed Clint Eastwood could do little wrong.  His films won him critical praise and, in the case of, Million Dollar Baby, a couple of Oscars as well. Unfortunately the signs were ominous with last year’s Invictus, a good story that only just about survived Eastwood’s attempts to bury it in schmaltz. Now the director brings us Hereafter and those hoping for a return to form will be badly disappointed. His latest film is a two-and-a-bit hour exercise in tedium.

Hereafter tells the stories of a man (Matt Damon) who can speak with the dead, a young boy (Jamie McLaren) whose twin brother is run over and killed, and a French journalist (Cecile de France) who is shaken by her narrow escape from the Indian Ocean tsunami , their stories connecting half-heartedly near the end. The problem is that the more interesting themes in the film, such as foster care and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, are skated over in order to focus on a ridiculously hokey storyline involving spirits and psychics.

In any case, by dividing his time between the three main characters, Eastwood doesn’t give enough time to any of them, and thus the characters are rather lifeless and bland, especially in the case of Damon’s medium. It doesn’t help that Peter Morgan’s script fails to put a single interesting line into the characters’ mouths –at one point, in a desperate attempt to inject some liveliness into proceedings he saddles Steven Schirippa, formerly of The Sopranos, with the dreadfully try-hard line, ‘How ya doin’, Tony?’

The film’s main problem however is a plot that goes nowhere. An early scene in which de France is caught up in the tsunami is a mess of unconvincing CGI and unconvincing direction. From there, the film merely meanders from place to place, pretending to be a meditation on death and spiritual belief but saying nothing insightful. Eventually, and a long time after the audience has stopped caring, the stories are lazily wrapped up, with absolutely no emotional pay-off. This bland, extraordinarily boring offering seems the work of an uncertain first-timer, rather than a master director with decades of experience under his belt.