There are some movies that have so much stuff in them that I can watch them five times and enjoy them all five times. Riverworld (2010), Monsters versus Aliens, Tangled and all the Star Wars movies are films that I enjoyed over and over. (It is probably no coincidence that those are all sci-fi or fantasy films.) Hereafter is a movie that seems to subscribe to the theory that "less is more". The movie effectively uses emotion and relationships more than plot to advance the story. It is not the kind of film that I would watch repeatedly, but it pulled at the heart strings so well that it felt like a deep emotional experience. At its core are the fundamental human questions about life and what might come after. It is the sort of gentle and subtle treatment that you would expect from director Clint Eastwood. It might be one of his better movies.
Hereafter is the story of a man who believes that he can communicate with the dead, along with the stories of two other people who all come together at the end.
Much of the emotion of the film comes from human response to tragedy. There is ample tragedy in this movie. At one point there is a terrorist bombing that I found jarring even though it was shown at a distance. The opening sequence involves people caught up in a tsunami, and it is an amazing spectacle to behold. We are used to seeing special effects in movies, but nevertheless I find myself wondering how they pulled off this sequence. The opening sequence alone is worth the price of admission.
One might think that the movie is exploitative because it takes advantage of our fears of current events by showing a terrorist bombing and a tsunami. Maybe it is exploiting our fears, but it does so in a gentle and reassuring way. I can't imagine any other movie having such a soft touch and pulling it off.
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