Aftermath Arnold Schwarzenegger, Scoot McNairy, Maggie Grace. Directed by Elliott Lester. Rated R. Now available on VOD.
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s post-politics career choices have been more interesting than the movies that result from them, and that’s the case again with Aftermath, a monotonous, dour drama starring Schwarzenegger as a grieving father. Based loosely on a real-life event, the movie depicts two characters on a slow, plodding collision course following a terrible mid-air accident, in which an error by an air-traffic controller causes two planes to collide, taking the lives of everyone onboard both flights. Schwarzenegger’s salt-of-the-earth Ukrainian immigrant Roman is consumed with grief over the death of his wife and daughter, while air-traffic controller Jacob (Scoot McNairy) is equally consumed with guilt over the innocent mistake that led to the tragedy.
Both characters spend much of the movie moodily staring into the distance, and director Elliott Lester weighs them down with an oppressively gray color palette and a somber, droning score. As in his 2015 effort at serious acting, the equally mopey zombie drama Maggie, Schwarzenegger is subdued and taciturn, but he doesn’t have the talent to pull off this kind of understated, internalized role. McNairy is more expressive, but neither character comes across as more than a pawn that the filmmakers are moving painstakingly into position. Deviating from the true story, the ending is hokey and overly convenient, undermining any potential moral complexity. Maybe Schwarzenegger’s next movie will be as fascinating as his decision to star in it.