Osage Reviews...HEREAFTER (Blu-ray; Warner Bros.) - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

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Osage Reviews...HEREAFTER (Blu-ray; Warner Bros.)

Studio: Warner Bros.
Disc/Transfer Specifications: 1080p High Definition 16X9 2.4:1 (2.40:1); Region 1 (U.S.) Release
Tested Audio Track: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring Cast: Matt Damon, Jay Mohr, Bryce Dallas Howard



Clint Eastwood finds his crypt-keeper-like self in the director’s chair yet again for this sappy, drawn out, over melodramatic quasi-supernatural yarn that plays more like something M. Night Shyamalan would have created rather than a product from the corpse that brought us Mystic River and Grand Torino. If I am being too hard on Hereafter, perhaps I am – it seriously was not a bad film, I suppose, in a remote sense of the term, but it dragged unnecessarily for way too long (even though it clocks in at a tick over two hours) and was inundated with tireless French-to-English subtitles for so much of the real estate running time, making Das Boot feel like a study in basic translation skills. Okay, that last parallel was exaggerated – of course, that classic submarine flick was wall to wall subtitles on the German cuts, but seriously, Hereafter had way too many subtitle sequences for any Region 1 or English-speaking area of the world to enjoy.

Once again, the premise seemed promising and beyond interesting – the original teaser clips depicted Matt Damon in one of the most serious roles of his career (many argue this was in Good Will Hunting or even Inviticus) playing a San Francisco-based super psychic who apparently has gotten out of the business, and who is still hounded by believers everywhere he goes. And while these clips and trailers appeared to suggest a tension-filled, well-acted attention-grabber, the final result was more drawn out and boring than anything, in my opinion. I am surely not saying dialogue-driven films are unworthy of being great cinema – this is absolutely not true, as countless films over the decades have proven. Something was just missing from this that gave it any sort of life (no pun intended), and while many are quick to blame Eastwood at the master helm, I think this was more the faults of the writing and producing team, one whose name is Steven Spielberg.

Indeed, Damon portrays George, a known psychic who has a keen connection to the afterlife courtesy of a gift he was born with (although all these psychics always refer to these “gifts” as “curses”) following a surgical procedure near his spine and head when he was young. Based in the San Francisco area, he has given up on reaching out to the deceased relatives of his patients, whom he can connect with nearly instantly from one person’s touch, and instead has joined the blue collar brigade of America, taking a job as a factory worker to make those expensive San Fran living expenses. Hereafter takes many cues and themes from films which weave several different story lines together, with the events and characters somehow intersecting towards the end, and as such, the action from the beginning focuses on a French journalist (Cecile de France) at a tropical resort with her boyfriend/boss, who is suddenly caught in the middle of a violent tsunami that ravages and destroys the entire island (eerily resembling the devastation which just rocked Japan). The tsunami wave sequence is particularly disturbing, and was expertly shot by Eastwood, depicting a gaggle of people shopping in a local street market being whisked away by a gigantic wall of water that eventually sends de France hurtling into an object below the water which renders her unconscious. When she wallows out of control in the raging tsunami wave, it is perceived that she has been killed by two locals who drag her to relative safety and attempt to perform CPR on her – but she begins having a near death experience, in which she envisions the infamous light at the end of a tunnel plus images of souls in a cloudy haze. These near death experiences were also expertly rendered by Eastwood, exhibiting all the elements we have been told are there just before we die, or when we do, and with each of these moments came a jarring flash into the world of the afterlife, most of the time via Damon’s character’s touch. De France comes back from the near-dead, choking on the water which has filled her lungs, but otherwise okay to return home to France with a changed perspective on life – and death.

From this point, much of the “boring” parts of Hereafter come to the foreground, as the action focuses on Paris and this journalist’s return to work, her relationship with the boss, the visions she is now having since the incident and her ideas of writing a book depicting what she endured. However, just about all of this is rendered with English subtitles based on the French the characters are speaking, and this goes on for a good while – through de France’s on air interview of a corporate big wig, board meetings at her TV station and even drawn-out dinners with her boss boyfriend who lets her know he has been sleeping with her replacement while she “rests” from the stress her near death experience has caused. The whole thing just goes on and on for quite some time, and it gets grueling after awhile. Across the world, Damon continues to look for other ways to spend his time rather than doing psychic readings for people who continue to harang him, most of it courtesy of his money-driven brother played by Jay Mohr; he takes an Italian cooking class (headed by none other than The Sopranos’ “Bobby Bacala” himself!) and meets Bryce Dallas Howard (Spider-Man 3’s “Gwen Stacey”), a girl new to San Francisco and looking to meet “Mr. Right.” The two are obviously attracted to one another, but their romance is very brief, as upon coming home with Damon one night, Howard’s character begs him to do a reading for her, against his warnings, and it’s discovered that she was molested by her own father when she was younger. Humiliated beyond belief, Howard’s character never returns to class.

Another subplot develops in London, where the twin sons of a drugged out deadbeat mother are suddenly thrust into a situation they never saw coming – I won’t divulge what goes on here, but suffice to say, it causes one of the boys to run away from a foster home and seek out psychic help from someone. When most of them turn out to be crackpots that just want to take the boy’s money (which he had stolen from the foster parents), he appears desperate to locate Damon, based on all his Internet information. How does this all come together? Well, Mohr tries to convince Damon to get back into the psychic reading business, so he could pull himself out of financial difficulties, and sets up an office for him, but before Damon could accept the offer, he writes his brother a note and flies off to Europe, where he wishes to get away from it all for awhile, telling Mohr that no one could understand the burden of this gift he has. Of course, once in London, Damon ends up finding literature of a book festival in the city (his George character is a big fan of Charles Dickens) and eventually runs into the little boy and the French journalist (who has completed her book on her near death experience and is marketing it at the festival). The boy pretty much stalks Damon’s character, standing outside his hotel room window for hours, freezing, but desperate to talk to “George” about making contact with someone very close to him.

It’s the very conclusion of Eastwood’s Hereafter which was the most disappointing, in my opinion, as it’s actually suggested that through a touch of her hand, Damon’s character could envision him and de France’s French journalist falling in love and “understanding” one another because of his talents and her understanding of the afterlife experience – the whole thing felt rushed and incomplete, and it really didn’t feel like an effective conclusion to the narrative.


Warner’s 2.40:1 widescreen 1080p transfer of Hereafter was so much more impressive than the audio track was – from the very beginning, the image explodes with a sharp clarity and eye-popping detail that should be passed on as one of the judging standards for future releases. The opening shots of the resort island the French journalist and her boyfriend are at were so clean and detailed, with the crisp greens of the tropical foliage appearing nearly dimensional, and the minute elements such as detail in the sands and grounds so richly accentuated, it seemed almost too pristine for the given subject material. When the action shifts to the foggy atmosphere and background of London, the transfer goes aptly cold, steely and stark, with the hues suggesting a blue/gray push; but this was perfectly suited to the locations being depicted. There was a slight appearance of a dithering, twitchy noise in some of the very dark shots, but this was undoubtedly due to photographic difficulties for these types of renderings in the HD format. Other than that, the transfer was free of film grain (which, depending on perspective, is either terrible or terrific; I fall into the “terrific” camp) and overall exhibited a satisfying visual experience.

Bravo, Warner.


This was a real letdown – as bold as this may sound, Hereafter’s English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix was one of the worst I have sampled on the format thus far. And although not much is called for given the subject matter, it still disappointed – to begin with, dialogue was ridiculously low and “hushed,” to the point I couldn’t hear character voices until I cranked my receiver’s master volume way up. The funny thing is, I’m wondering if this is just an “Eastwood thing,” as most of his other films, from Mystic River to Absolute Power, have exhibited this “extremely low dialogue” anomaly (some directors seem to prefer certain “methods” of doing things, such as Woody Allen’s insistence on doing his films in mono audio). At any rate, beyond the dialogue, the entire track exhibited no energy, punch or life, save for brief moments of sequences depicting Damon’s character’s contacts with the afterlife – these were accentuated with a sudden, jarring blast of LFE and shock elements that could make you jump out of your seat (which it did to me a few times) if you’re not expecting it while listening to the soft dialogue coming before.

In all fairness, there were some impressive moments with regard to the audio landscape here – the opening sequence depicting the tsunami ravaging the island resort was accompanied by a realistic yet non-aggressive usage of the 5.1 channel layout, as the rushing water of the tsunami wave carrying helpless victims away as it destroyed the village careened through the channels from front to back. This was done in a refreshingly toned-down way, as gentle surround cues came from the back channels when the water crashed into everything in its path, and the screams of victims filled various areas of my listening room.

However, as a whole, this was a low-mastered, disappointing DTS-HD Master Audio track on so many levels; you are going to need to make sure that center channel of yours is working to its fullest and that the trim values are pretty high up there in order to make anything out.


Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter is certainly worth a rental – it was nowhere near the worst film ever made, but I enjoyed much of Eastwood’s previous work better, including the riveting and aforementioned Mystic River. Damon turns in a respectable, driving performance as the harassed famous psychic, and it is perhaps his role that saves this from being a total disaster in some senses; but to me, it was way too long, overshadowed by unnecessarily drawn-out French language sequences and a lack of any kind of compelling storytelling energy…the ending was a particular letdown, coming suddenly and concluding just as rapidly, feeling rushed and tacked on.

It did have a kind of The Fourth Kind-meets-Mystic River feel to it, but it wasn’t memorable enough for me to warrant or suggest a purchase.

Let me know what you thought of Hereafter if you have seen it, and thanks for reading!
Osage_Winter is offline  


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