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As I stated in other reviews, Clint Eastwood is indeed one of our greatest living American filmmakers. What I like especially about the latter phase of Eastwood’s directorial career is willingness and obvious enthusiasm to tackle projects that you would not readily expect from a man whose acting career was iconified in the western and gritty cop genres. HEREAFTER ($36), a supernatural melodrama, is definitely not the type of film that one would expect to be directed by Clint Eastwood, but his dignified and understated directorial style serves the material exceedingly well. Peter Morgan’s screenplay for HEREAFTER tells of how brushes with death and the afterlife impact the lives of three very different people. I think, in the hands of a loss capable director, HEREAFTER could have been turned into something ludicrous or crass, instead of a film that maintains a sense of reality and hope. Still, HEREAFTER is not a perfect movie, but I found it to be a thoughtful one on a subject that everyone has contemplated in one form or another.

While in Thailand, French television journalist Marie Lelay (Cécile de France) is shopping for souvenirs not far from her beachfront hotel, when the tsunami hits. Like so many others Marie is swept up in the wave and drowns. Her lifeless body is pulled from the water, but before she is resuscitated, Marie has a near-death experience in which she sees visions of the other side. Upon her return to France, Marie is haunted by what she has experienced and takes a leave of absence from television journalism to write a book. While she initially sets out to write an expose on a political figure, she channels her energy into a serious book on the afterlife and her personal experience.

In San Francisco, we encounter George Lonegan (Matt Damon), a former professional psychic, who is persuaded by his brother Billy (Jay Mohr), albeit against his wishes, to do a reading for a wealthy client and contact the man’s dead wife. While George does make contact and gets a message from the other side, he insists to his brother that he is now done with this part of his life. Unfortunately, Billy sees his brother’s ability as a (lucrative) gift, while George views it as a curse the left him emotionally burned out and incapable of having normal relationships in his life. Now content in factory work, George tries to have a normal life and enrolls in a cooking class, where he is paired with a young woman named Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard).

Marcus and Jason (Frankie and George McLaren) are twelve-year-old twins living in London with their alcoholic, heroin addicted mother, Jackie (Lyndsey Marshal). In another desperate attempt to save themselves from being taken away by social services, Jason goes to the chemist to pick up a detox prescription for their mother. Unfortunately, Jason is killed in an automobile accident on the way home. A devastated Marcus is placed in foster care, but finds himself having difficulty coping without his twin. As time passes, Marcus becomes more and more desperate for reunion with his brother, and seeks a way to make contact with the other side, but finds only frauds and pretenders, instead of solace.

Warner Home Video has made HEREAFTER available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. HEREAFTER features a terrific 1080p presentation that highlights Tom Stern’s excellent cinematography. Overall, image sharpness, clarity and dimensionality are first-rate. Fine detail and texturing are also well represented. Sure, there is an odd shot here and there that appear mildly soft, but usually these are instances that contain digital elements. Colors favor the cooler end of the spectrum, while saturation appears at a realistic level. Flesh tones always appear natural. Blacks are pitch perfect and the whites are clean and crisp. Contrast has been given an occasional push, while shadow details are pretty much first rate. The elements from which HEREAFTER has been transferred appear free of flaws. Grain is quite modest.

HEREAFTER is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. This is a genuinely excellent soundtrack that displays a full range of sonic qualities. All of the outlying channels engage on a regular basis and perform well in all environments. The tsunami sequence is an enveloping and overwhelming set piece that is perfectly reproduced. Bustling street scenes, factory environments and the London underground are all wonderfully lifelike and natural. Even talky passages sound prioritized. Thanks to the lossless encode, Clint Eastwood subtle piano driven score has full-bodied musicality. Additionally, the sound effects are wholly convincing. The bass channel is deep and forceful. Voices have a warm, natural quality, plus the film’s English dialogue is always completely understandable. A French Dolby Digital 5.1 channel track has also been encoded onto the disc. Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few extras. Step Into The Hereafter offers viewers an interactive mode of movie playback, which allows one to be taken to in context programs at the time of their relevance within the film. Programs from the Step Into The Hereafter are also available to view independently as a series of Focus Points. The nine programs falling under the Focus Points include: Tsunami! Recreating A Disaster, Is There Life After Death, Clint On Casting, Delving Into The Hereafter, Twin Bonding, French Speaking French, Why The White Light?, Hereafter's Locations: Casting The Silent Characters and The Eastwood Experience. The most substantial extra included on the disc is the Extended Version of The Eastwood Factor, which runs two hours and nine minutes. Written and directed by film critic/biographer Richard Schickel, and featuring narration by Morgan Freeman The Eastwood Factor traces the actor/director’s thirty-five plus year association with the Warner Bros studio. A couple of Bonus Trailers close out the standard extras. A DVD and Digital Copy of the film are also provided, with both being housed on the second disc of this set.

As I stated above, HEREAFTER is not a perfect movie, but it is a thoughtful one from one of our greatest living American filmmakers. The Blu-ray presentation is pretty darn close to perfect. With the inclusion of the Extended Version of The Eastwood Factor, this release comes highly recommended.


Hereafter (Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy) (2010)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright © 2011 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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