For some reason I didn't get around to seeing the Clint Eastwood movie Hereafter until just today. Though the subject matter would seem to be right up my alley, I was a little turned off by negative reviews and an assumption that I'd seen it all before.
When I finally did watch the movie, though, I liked it better than I'd expected. It has weaknesses, and is certainly not a masterwork on the level of Eastwood's Unforgiven or Gran Torino, but overall it's an intelligent, low-key, serious movie about life and death.
For me, the first hour was a bit problematic. After a powerful opening that showcases a blockbuster action sequence, the film settled into a rather slow-paced exploration of the three major characters in three different locales. Eastwood's films typically incline toward a fairly sluggish pace, which can be effective, but in this case, the slam-bang beginning made it tough for me to adjust to the much different tone and pace that followed.
Things picked up markedly in the second hour, as the characters' stories gradually converged to produce a satisfying, albeit not especially dramatic, resolution.
The film's insistence on avoiding sensationalism is praiseworthy -- this is probably the most level-headed movie about the afterlife ever made. If anything, Hereafter is a little too quiet and sensible for its own good. More high drama might have made for a more compelling story.
The brief flashes of contact with the afterlife are not especially memorable, but work well enough in context. The movie's best feature is Matt Damon's outstanding performance as a reluctant medium who delivers his readings in a no-nonsense, matter-of-fact style. It's probably the least off-putting depiction of a medium I've seen in a movie.
The film also has some fun with fake or deluded mediums, showing us an obvious cold reader, a hammy channeler, and a credulous mirror-gazer in quick succession. The point is briskly made that organized religions demand obedience to a particular dogma rather than open-minded investigation. The idea that convincing evidence for an afterlife has been suppressed by "a conspiracy of silence" is advanced, though not fleshed out. Considering its subject matter, the film is not preachy or self-important, and it doesn't strain too hard to be uplifting.
While Hereafter isn't Eastwood's best movie, it is surely one of the better movies about life after death, and its sober, reflective tone is rather refreshing. I think readers of this blog would like it. I also imagine that most of you have already seen it!