“Hereafter,” the new drama from one-man-movie-making-machine Clint Eastwood—this is his eight film in just seven years—begins with a tour-de-force sequence before settling in to a deliberate, but slow pace. In its opening minutes Eastwood stages a tsunami scene that shows a tropical beach town torn apart by a giant wave. Caught in the wild water is a French television anchor (Cecile de France) who later becomes obsessed with thoughts and visions of the hereafter following her near death experience. That’s the first of three stories Eastwood weaves together “Crash”-style to explore the metaphysical side of death. In other, unrelated plot shards Matt Damon plays an American psychic with the ability to speak to the dead—“It’s not a gift,” he says, “it’s a curse.”—and an English boy who longs to communicate with his dead twin brother.
Eastwood, working from a script by two-time Oscar nominee Peter Morgan has made a film that is by times engaging, by times plodding. On their own the three stories each have their merits but the film’s final third, where they are brought together, feels clumsy despite a touching climax between Damon and the little boy. It’s a nice moment, but it seems to take an eternity to get there. Ditto Damon’s interaction with the French journalist. Here Eastwood and Morgan have a chance to provide some insight into the woman’s story in the form of a letter Damon‘s character writes to her, but fail to. It’s a frustrating end to a movie that appears to have something to say.
On the plus side Eastwood creates nice moments of tension early on as he establishes the various story threads, and Damon once again proves that he is a versatile, interesting actor, but unfortunately the movie, so ambitious in scope—shot in three countries with a large talented cast—is let down by a self indulgent script.