I never understood the hate that was spewed forth by the critical nation after Clint Eastwood's 'Hereafter' hit theaters. Were they expecting a rocking ride into the afterlife just because all of the previews for the movie featured a gigantic tidal wave bearing down on a defenseless coastal city? Did people expect more action and suspense to buoy their popcorn-addled minds? Were most people expecting a silly, nonsensical look at the divine much like we just got in the hapless 'Adjustment Bureau'? I'm not sure what people were expecting when they walked into 'Hereafter' especially knowing Eastwood's penchant for drawn out melodramatic stories that make you think and feel, but I for one was very pleased with the outcome.
Eastwood's 'Hereafter' isn't particularly bothered with exposition. It doesn't need to explain to us, verbatim, what is going on and what we are seeing. We see glimpses of what appears to be an afterlife, but they're only ever glimpses. These aren't ridiculous CG dreamscapes like in 'The Lovely Bones.' Instead, these are images that allow viewers to make up their own minds about what is going on after we die.
'Hereafter' follows three separate, but equally important storylines that criss-cross the globe. A French reporter named Marie Lelay (Cécile De France) is caught in a tsunami that rips through a coastal Indonesian town. She's swept through the streets in a grandiose special effect of a rogue wave ripping through a small city. She bounces off floating cars and crumbling buildings. When she's nailed by an oncoming car she experiences what is referred to as a near death experience. She sees outlines of people milling around and floats around them, weightless. Is this an afterlife? What is this place? Lelay doesn't know, but after her experience, she's determined to find out.
Meanwhile in England a set of twins, Marcus and Jason, are as close as brothers can get. They take care of their drug-addicted mother and hope that at some point she'll quit her bad habits and be their mom again. Their story is heart-wrenching, when Jason is killed in a car accident Marcus is left alone. Searching for answers, Marcus tries to understand if there's a life after this one. He searches for meaning in his brother's death.
Over in America a young man named George Lonegan (Matt Damon) works in a factory and earns a measly wage. He wasn't always a factory worker however, he used to be a world-renowned psychic. A man who, apparently, can genuinely converse with the dead. He doesn't use any silly gimmicks, he is simply able to touch someone's hands and see people who have passed on. He's struggled with a normal life. Knowing everything about someone, he says, is a curse not a blessing.
Eastwood lets these three stories seamlessly glide around one another as they become closer and closer to intersecting. These characters are truly searching for something, but they're not sure what. Even George, who has seen people numerous times on the "other side" still has no idea what it's like there.
'Hereafter' isn't a movie for the masses. Its slow, methodical nature may put off quite a few viewers. I know when I saw it in the theaters, many patrons were fidgeting, and shifting in their seats wondering if anything like the tsunami was going to happen again.
This isn't that type of movie though. This is about characters searching for love, life, and the meanings therein. It never approaches a heavy-handed preachy aspect either. It stays pretty neutral on the subject of if there is a God, afterlife etc. Instead, Eastwood guides viewers through a world where some kind of afterlife seems to exist and there are a few people who want to know more. That's all. Like many of us, they're searching. Always searching.
The Disc: Vital Stats
Not much to mention here. The 50GB Blu-ray disc comes packaged with a DVD/Digital Copy. I did want to mention here though that the English subtitles that are used throughout the film during Lelay's sequences appear half on the image and half on the black bar on the bottom, which will no doubt aggravate our resident projector enthusiast Mr. Zyber.
As expected 'Hereafter' crashes onto Blu-ray with a stunning 1080p AVC-encoded transfer from Warner.
Detail is impressive here with facial details like pores and fine hairs coming through with dramatic clarity. Even when the camera pans back to take everything in, like the aftermath of the tsunami, the pieces of individual debris can be spotted as their edges are perfectly defined. Looking out over the wreckage is one of the most amazing sites of the movie. The wave that crashes down on the city actually looks slightly more fake presented in HD home video. That's just the nature of the beast. It accentuates different aspects of the wave that I never noticed in the theater. It draws your attention to the CGI-ness of the wave instead of its monstrous destructive power. For example, the people and objects being swept up by the wave appear very CG, there's no other way to put it.
Colors are bold, and blacks provide some of the movie's most stunning photography. There's a scene where George lays in his bed listening to Dickens. His silhouette is outlined by soft lift and deep black shadows. Here is a scene that shows exactly what well produced blacks can actually do. They accentuate the details in his face, even down to the tiny pores on his cheeks and nose.
I didn't notice, at any time, any sort of artifacts worming their way into the presentation. Aliasing keeps away, even during the scenes featuring long streets full of intricate London brickwork. This is a fine, almost flawless Blu-ray presentation.
Almost as good as the video presentation, 'Hereafter's 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio presentation is one to be reckoned with.
When the tsunami finally crushes down on the town swallowing up everything in its path the LFE doesn't stop roaring. When the torrents of water rush down the streets the surrounds give us the feeling that we're right there being pulled down the street with Marie. Swirling water, crunching metal and bursting power lines fill the surround speakers causing a hectic, but very realistic listening environment.
When things calm down the audio track is home to Eastwood's melodic piano score that has become his trademark. The soft, soothing piano reverberates through the soundfield creating a lovely ambiance as it guides us through one scene after another. Dialogue is the only sticking point. Normal spoken voices come through clearly, but whispers are harder to discern. Overall, though this is a very lively and engaging soundtrack.
'Hereafter' has its numerous haters out there, but I'm just not sure what they expected here. This is a strong character piece, driven by characters who are searching for answers to question that may remain answerless. They come up with their own ways to cope and live, but still there's that thought nagging at the back of their minds. Eastwood flawlessly weaves each of these stories together in a tapestry of love and learning. The video and audio provide an amazing experience. The special features, while sans commentary, are more than redeemed by the inclusion of 'The Eastwood Factor' which has only ever been available on DVD. This one comes highly recommended.