The undiscovered country… which they shouldn’t have returned to.
The movies have depicted the hereafter in varied ways over the years. From the bleached white warehouses of Powell and Pressburger’s “A Matter of Life and Death” in 1946 and Warren Beatty’s “Heaven Can Wait” in 1978 to – for me – the peak of the game: Vincent Ward’s mawkish but gorgeously rendered oil-paint version of heaven in 1998’s “What Dreams May Come”. Joel Schmacher’s 1990’s “Flatliners” saw a set of “brat pack” movie names of the day (including Kevin Bacon, Julia Roberts, William Baldwin and Kiefer Sutherland) as experimenting trainee doctors, cheating death to experience the afterlife and getting more than they bargained for. The depictions of the afterlife were unmemorable: in that I don’t remember them much! (I think there was some sort of spooky tree involved, but that’s about it!)
But the concept was sufficiently enticing – who isn’t a little bit intrigued by the question of “what’s beyond”? – that Cross Creek Pictures thought it worthy of dusting off and giving it another outing in pursuit of dirty lucre. But unfortunately this offering adds little to the property’s reputation.
In this version, the lead role is headed up by Ellen Page (“Inception”) who is a great actress… too good for this stuff. Also in that category is Diego Luna, who really made an impact in “Rogue One” but here has little to work with in terms of backstory. The remaining three doctors – Nina Dobrev as “the sexy one”; James Norton (“War and Peace”) as “the posh boy” and Kiersey Clemons as the “cute but repressed one”, all have even less backstory and struggle to make a great impact.
Also putting in an appearance, as the one link from the original film, is Kiefer Sutherland as a senior member of the teaching staff. But he’s not playing the same character (that WOULD have been a bloody miracle!) and although Sutherland adds gravitas he really is given criminally little to do. What was director Niels Arden Oplev (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”) thinking?
In terms of the story, it’s pretty much a re-hash of Peter Filardi’s original, with Ben Ripley (“Source Code”) adding a few minor tweaks to the screenplay to update it for the current generation. But I will levy the same criticism of this film as I levied at the recent Stephen King adaptation of “It”: for horror to work well it need to obey some decent ‘rules of physics’ and although most of the scenes work (since a lot of the “action” is sensibly based inside the character’s heads) there are the occasional linkages to the ‘real world’ that generate a “WTF???” response. A seemingly indestructible Mini car (which is also clearly untraceable by the police!) and a knife incident at the dockside are two cases in point.
Is there anything good to say about this film? Well, there are certainly a few tense moments that make the hairs on your neck at least start to stand to attention. But these are few and far between, amongst a sea of movie ‘meh’. It’s certainly not going to be the worst film I see this year, since at least I wasn’t completely bored for the two hours. But I won’t remember this one in a few weeks. As a summary in the form of a “Black Adder” quote, it’s all a bit like a broken pencil….. pointless.
Fad Rating: FFf.