Clint Eastwood is thinking about mortality. I don't assume it's because he is 80 years old, but he found a story by Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon) which he really felt a connection with and decided to make it into a film. Hereafter includes two real life events, the 2004 Southeast Asian tsunami and the 2005 London underground bombings, and follows three different main characters and how they are affected by events which shape their thoughts on mortality and what may come afterwards.
The three main characters are geographically separated. One is a French newscaster who was personally caught up in the tsunami. The second is a young British boy who does not know how to function or what to do after his twin brother is suddenly killed. The third is Matt Damon, the American, who has the ability to make connections with people and interact with their loved ones who are in the hereafter. He views it as a curse, not a gift.
Each character encounters different reactions as they attempt to discuss what happened to them and there are some moments concerning different nationalities and how they may respond to the idea of a hereafter. The French are very intellectual and in the film view the idea of a hereafter as a subject which serious people do not discuss and these visions of an afterlife are most likely the result of a concussion. The British, on the other hand, are shown through a montage sequence of various charlatans and fake psychics as they extort money from people looking for answers. The American, who actually has the ability, wants nothing to do with it and tries very hard to keep it hidden.
I knew beforehand it was a Clint Eastwood film, but if I did not know that, I still would have attached his name to it. The music which was so memorable from Gran Torino and Million Dollar Baby is back again and the long, contemplative shots of the characters trying to make sense of things are here as well. The two young British actors who play the twins, Frankie and George McLaren, are outstanding in their first acting roles and contribute a big emotional weight. The lighting, especially in Matt Damon's scenes in his apartment and in his hotel room, is way too dark. It is side and back lit and much too harsh.
Hereafter has some bad luck as its video release is the same week as the Japanese tsunami. There is a very realistic tsunami wave in this movie; however, it is brief and early on. To label it a 'tsunami movie' is very misleading and a discredit to what Eastwood is trying to discuss. Eastwood's previous, recent films are better than Hereafter, but this movie is still far superior than the vast majority of its competitors.