Clint Eastwood has been making films at a breakneck pace in the last few years, finding a sort of renewed purpose as a director even as he passes his 80th birthday. The problem with being so prolific is that Eastwood seems less careful and discriminating; though he always gets high-profile stars and big budgets for his work, movies like Invictus and Changeling feel rote and rushed, a bunch of empty prestige with nothing behind them. Eastwood’s latest, Hereafter, falls into the same category, although it’s even more ponderous and hollow than those other two. A meditation on the nature of the afterlife doesn’t exactly play to Eastwood’s strengths, and the script by Peter Morgan, best known for his fact-based docudramas (The Queen, Frost/Nixon, The Last King of Scotland), doesn’t provide enough structure for Eastwood’s signature light touch.
It’s a long, slow slog through the movie’s three (eventually) interconnected stories, taking place in three cities. In San Francisco, psychic George Lonegan (Matt Damon) tries to create a new life for himself after giving up a lucrative career based on what he calls a “curse.” In Paris, TV journalist Marie LeLay (Cecile De France) struggles to return to her previous life after a near-death experience. And in London, a young boy (played by twins Frankie and George McLaren) has trouble moving past the sudden death of his twin brother.
Morgan’s ideas about the afterlife are nothing but cobbled-together clichés, and Eastwood’s depictions of sorrow and doubt involve the actors doing a lot of sighing and staring into the middle distance. The movie inches forward at a glacial pace toward a perfunctory anticlimax, and none of the individual characters’ plights have any dramatic momentum on their own. Damon and De France, both often exciting performers, are lugubrious and glum, and the McLaren twins are awkward and wooden. Hereafter touts its own profundity at every turn, from its muted color palette to its maudlin score to its cheap use of real-life disasters as plot devices. Rather than touching and meaningful, though, it just comes off as dour and pedantic.