Clint Eastwood’s meditative (re: slow) examination of the afterlife and people’s search to discover it COULD have been a great film – it starts off pretty stupendously, with a thrilling tsunami scene….oh, wait, does it make me an asshole to say that this scene is exciting? Too soon? Well, whatever, the scene IS impressive, and kicks the movie off in a much more exciting way than the rest of it really deserves.

But like I said, there was potential here – I’m usually a sucker for the kind of storytelling on display in this one, the whole “three seemingly unrelated stories that eventually come together” thing. Sure, often times with these sort of movies, the stories end up merging in sort of lame, hackneyed ways (as is the case here), but yet I still always look forward to seeing how it will happen.
In this case, the three stories involve a beautiful French reporter who has a near-death experience in the aforementioned tsunami, a young boy mourning the recent death of his twin brother, and a psychic who views his ability as more of a curse than a gift due to the strains it puts on his personal relationships and ability to lead a normal life. Each tale has its interesting moments, but it’s really only the psychic one (with Matt Damon) that felt consistently compelling – not because I haven’t seen it before, because I felt like I had. But Damon’s performance is such a masterpiece of subtle heartbreak and annoyance over not being able to be “normal.” What can I say, I felt bad for the guy.

The problem is that, while each of the stories have potential, the film just kind of meanders around for far too long. I think most people watching the movie will guess that at some point all of these characters are going to meet, so you’re really just killing time waiting for that to happen. And the eventual pay-off really isn’t worth it – more maudlin than truly powerful.

The idea of Clint Eastwood finally tackling a supernatural film was an intriguing one, but I’m not convinced he was all that into the subject matter, or at least not as much as he probably should have been. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that now that he’s in his 80’s, he’s thinking a lot more about the afterlife than he did when he was making Westerns and Dirty Harry movies. But this movie never feels like an artist making a real statement on the topic. Instead, it’s simply a very good director making a fairly cliched film featuring many of the same ideas we’ve seen in similar films. Because it’s Eastwood, it’s obviously well done, but it still feels more or less pointless in the end. File this one under “disappointing.”

 

 

This review was originally posted at Trevor Likes Movies on June 5th, 2011.

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