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Hereafter Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Review

Hereafter (2010) movie poster Hereafter

Theatrical Release: October 15, 2010 / Running Time: 129 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Clint Eastwood / Writer: Peter Morgan / Music List

Cast: Matt Damon (George Lonegan), Cécile De France (Marie Lelay), Jay Mohr (Billy Lonegan), Bryce Dallas Howard (Melanie), George McLaren (Marcus/Jason), Frankie McLaren (Marcus/Jason), Thierry Neuvic (Didier), Marthe Keller (Dr. Rousseau), Derek Jacobi (Himself), Lyndsey Marshal (Jackie), Richard Kind (Christos Andrews), Steven R. Schirripa (Cooking Teacher Carlo), Jenifer Lewis (Candace), Rebekah Staton (Social Worker), Declan Conlon (Social Worker), Niamh Cusack (Foster Mother), George Costigan (Foster Father), Jean-Vyes Berteloot (Publishing Executive Michael)

Available on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, On Demand and for Download 3/15!
Buy Hereafter from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital CopyDVDBlu-rayInstant Video


The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences' love for Clint Eastwood isn't what it used to be. After nearly forty years of ignoring his work in front of and behind the camera, the Academy gave Eastwood Best Director and Best Picture Oscars for 1992's Unforgiven. With 2003's Mystic River (a nominee for Director and Picture, and winner of two acting awards), Eastwood and the Academy reminded the world of his filmmaking talent. The next year, Million Dollar Baby reinforced that reminder with his second Director and Picture Oscar wins. It was starting to feel like Eastwood's serious, well-timed fare would make him an Oscar Night fixture, but he hasn't been nominated again since 2006's Letters from Iwo Jima. The highly-regarded Changeling picked up nods for Angelina Jolie and two technical aspects, while the beloved blockbuster Gran Torino somehow was completely shut out. Then, the much-anticipated Invictus snagged only acting recognition, even in a ten-deep Best Picture field. And now, Eastwood's latest movie, Hereafter, had to settle for merely a visual effects nomination and a questionable one at that.

Having reluctantly revealed his psychic prowess, George Lonegan (Matt Damon) braces for an uncomfortable reading request from his cooking class partner Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard). Separated from his identical twin brother Jason, Marcus (George or Frankie McLaren) looks everywhere for answers to his spiritual questions.

Hereafter tells three stories in three different parts of the world. The film opens on French television journalist Marie Lelay (Cécile De France), who is in Thailand with her boss/lover (Thierry Neuvic). While he slowly wakes up, she goes off to buy presents for his children and winds up getting caught in a tsunami. Marie survives the chaos, but not until spending a few moments seemingly without a pulse.
The near-death experience and the vivid visions it offered have a major effect on Marie and soon interfere with her professional life.

In San Francisco, Dickens enthusiast George Lonegan (Matt Damon) has given up on a successful career as a psychic medium. No charlatan, Lonegan is presented as a completely legitimate John Edward-type who sees lucid images of the dead when grasping their relatives' hands. Though his profound readings are gratefully received and generously rewarded, he can no longer endure the sleep-depriving mental toll they take and considers his gift a curse. Ignoring his older brother's (Jay Mohr) advice, George is now content in a menial construction job. There is also an adult cooking class, where he meets and partners with newly-single, new-in-town Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard), with whom sparks begin to form.

Over in London, we spend time with identical young twins Marcus and Jason (Frankie and George McLaren), who help each other cope with having and covering for an unfit alcoholic single mother (Lyndsey Marshal). An accident changes the boys' tight-knit dynamic and sets one of the brothers on a search for answers.

As you suspect, paths do cross, but not any sooner than they have to. The majority of the film is divided between the three worlds, not bouncing back and forth or drawing parallels but spending long periods of time in each and observing how the three leads' complicated feelings towards the afterlife affect them in the present.

French journalist Marie Lelay (Cécile De France) finds her publisher unreceptive to her revised book proposal regarding a near-death experience. Dinner for one... Being able to communicate with the dead is more of a curse than a gift for lonely San Franciscan George Lonegan (Matt Damon).

Human curiosity in what happens after death is about as old as intelligent thought. Many have speculated for or against an afterlife, but even those who are hopeful have sometimes wildly discordant notions of what it might be like.
Hereafter seems pretty straightforward in establishing its belief in something beyond this world but it doesn't much clarify or visualize what it may be. That uncertainty grounds the picture in reality, which is where it spends nearly all its time.

The film is a little slow but never uninteresting. The London storyline feels a bit like a ploy for sympathy and it's slightly less substantial than the other two, but the three universes are complementary and add up to more than the sum of their parts.

Eastwood has been known to draw strong performances from his actors and this is no exception. The understated twins playing the twins (they divide duties instead of staying fixed to a character) prevent their part from getting treacly. Meanwhile, Damon and De France (who I was surprised/embarrassed to figure out I remembered from Jackie Chan's Around the World in 80 Days) excel at creating deep, introspective adults with opposite experience and outlooks on the typically unseen dimension.

At age 80, you have to imagine that the subject matter was not irrelevant to Eastwood's selection of this project. The director brings technical proficience and sound, unquestionable judgment to the table. This film may not be great enough to wonder why it didn't feature in the award season discussion (and its Visual Effects nomination over the more effects-driven Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Tron: Legacy is a real head-scratcher), but it still easily lands at the better end of modern cinema. Why the film doesn't produce a stronger reaction as it stylishly and thoughtfully deals with life's giant mysteries may be more attributable to the script by Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon) than to Eastwood's noble efforts. Not that Morgan's script disappoints or fails; it's just not as sharp or full of ideas as it could be.

Grossing $32.7 million domestically on a $50 M budget, Hereafter's tepid performance at the box office seemed to reinforce that Eastwood the actor is a bigger draw than Eastwood the director. His last two movies to pass the $100 M mark in North America both starred him. Those that have let seemingly bigger stars handle the reins, such as Jolie in Changeling and Damon here and in Invictus (more of Morgan Freeman's movie, I guess), have ended up with grosses in the $30 million range. As has been the case with Eastwood's other recent flops, the international market picked up the slack on Hereafter, providing $71 million and counting since opening in January and February.

Hereafter is now available on DVD, Blu-ray, and a Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack from Warner Home Video, the studio distributing the vast majority of Eastwood's work on disc.

Hereafter Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: DTS-HD 5.1 MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled in English and French
Release Date: March 15, 2011
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $35.99
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available in standalone DVD ($28.98 SRP), Blu-ray Disc ($29.98 SRP)
and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

The picture quality on Hereafter's 2.40:1 Blu-ray is pretty excellent. The film utilizes the dark, saturated high contrast palette employed on most of Eastwood's recent work. The blacks feel a touch light. There is some very faint grain in some scenes and, deliberately or not, edges of frames are sometimes glaringly out of focus. Otherwise, the sharp visuals satisfy with an expectedly clean element. Despite the Oscar nomination, this movie offers little in the way of sensory delight.
Watch Hereafter's trailer:
The DTS-HD 5.1 master audio has its greatest impact in the big tsunami opening and its foreshadowing. After that, the soundtrack settles down with unremarkable atmosphere aside from the bassy booms that accompany George's sparse hand readings. Dialogue is always crisp and intelligible and, as they do in real life, the French characters predominantly speak French, which is translated in clean player-generated subtitles.

The combo pack's DVD looks and sounds comparable to the Blu-ray, only with lower resolution and much higher compression. On an average display, the DVD will still look fine, but the low bit rate presentation (impacted by the inclusion of two kinds of digital copies) does pale in comparison to most other major studio movies these days (as may be the point, to encourage Blu-ray adoption). One assumes that without devoting room to digital copies, the standalone DVD version would have more room to breathe, but I can't confirm that at this time.

A water tank and green screen are used to recreate the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami with which the film dynamically opens. Talking about her psychic calling evidently makes "Medium" inspiration Allison DuBois very sweaty.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Hereafter is joined by just two Blu-ray bonus features, but don't expect to whiz right through them.

First up is "Step Into the Hereafter" (HD), an enhanced viewing mode which incorporates nine "Focus Points" into playback. Happily, you can also watch any or all of the nine topical vignettes on their own. And why wouldn't you want to do that?

"Tsunami! Recreating a Disaster" (6:32) discusses the mixture of techniques used to realistically and dynamically bring to life the one sequence responsible for the film's only Oscar nomination. "Is There Life After Death?" (3:57) lets cast and crew ponder that question without getting too personal or pious. "Clint on Casting" (7:22) has the director and company sounding off on the actors, beginning with Matt Damon and moving down to supporting roles. "Delving into the Hereafter" (6:01) lets us hear from medium psychics and parapsychologists on their practices as well as whether cast and crew buy into them.

Amblin Entertainment producer Kathleen Kennedy and her identical sister Connie discuss "Twin Bonding." Director Clint Eastwood isn't sure how he feels about what Jay Mohr is telling him in "The Eastwood Experience."

"Twin Bonding" (5:53) gathers thoughts on twins from twins (including producer Kathleen Kennedy and her identical sister) and others. "French Speaking French" (1:44) is short and self-explanatory, sharing the reasoning behind subtitling the language for realism. "Why the White Light?" (3:28) considers the sights and effects of near-death experiences. "Hereafter's Locations: Casting the Silent Characters" (4:54) comments upon authentically shooting in three distant locations. Finally, "The Eastwood Experience" (4:17) lets the cast and crew discuss and appreciate their director.

Running 42 minutes and 26 seconds overall, these are some really good making-of shorts. With the possible exception of the tsunami piece, I see no reason why any of them would be better enjoyed within the context of feature playback, so I'm glad they are made available separately.

The 1978 comedy "Every Which Way But Loose", co-starring an orangutan named Clyde, is one of the older films given brief notice in Richard Schickel's documentary "The Eastwood Factor." Clint Eastwood reflects on his life's work sitting on the beach rocks near his hometown of Carmel-by-the-Sea.

The second and final extra is the extended version of the now feature-length documentary The Eastwood Factor (1:28:27, HD), all about Eastwood's decades of acting and directing at Warner Bros. Written, produced and directed by Richard Schickel, this does not deal with Hereafter, closing instead with Invictus, whose star, repeat Eastwood player Morgan Freeman, narrates.
The documentary is largely a parade of film clips, spanning Eastwood's career and paying far more attention to the acclaimed projects from Unforgiven onward than to his 1960s, '70s, and '80s acting. The piece is limited on account of only dealing with Eastwood's Warner fare; "Rawhide" and his Sergio Leone trilogy get passing mentions and In the Line of Fire, Changeling, and other non-Warner credits don't even get that. On the plus side, Eastwood and Warner have had a near-exclusive relationship, so the bulk of his filmography gets considered here chronologically. While there aren't any interviews with collaborators or admirers, we do check in with Eastwood from time to time, as he surveys his films' wardrobe archives, visits the scoring stage named after him, and shares his thoughts and memories about many of his Warner films. It's an imperfect but satisfactory overview of Eastwood's accomplishments.

Note that a much shorter version of this documentary (running 22 minutes and change) appeared on both Invictus' Blu-ray and, before that, on Warner's Clint Eastwood: 35 Films 35 Years collection. This full 88-minute cut was released to DVD on its own last year and now makes its hi-def debut. Though unrated, it definitely has more profanity in its film clips than a PG-13 feature would allow.

Standard for a Warner combo pack, the DVD in this set contains no bonus features besides a digital copy of the film in Windows Media and iTunes formats, which occupy a little over three of the disc's less than eight GB of data. The combo pack's DVD also drops the French dub and all bonus features of the DVD sold on its own. Par for the Warner of late, though, you're not missing many bonus features this way; the standalone standard DVD includes just three of the nine "Step Into the Hereafter" focus points ("Tsunami!", "Locations", and "Eastwood Experience"), which it offers merely as featurettes.

When first inserted, the Blu-ray plays trailers for Hall Pass and Red Riding Hood. There are no trailers on the DVD.

In typical Warner fashion, the Blu-ray menu is a simple, static reformatting of the poster art, over which the menus pop up and a harmonica portion of Eastwood's score plays. The DVD's main menu is basically the same and it also holds silent, basic screens for scene selection and set up.

The lone insert inside the slipcovered slim Blu-ray case supplies directions for digital copy activation.

George Lonegan (Matt Damon) is not prepared to give Marcus what he seeks when their paths cross at a London book fair.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Hereafter may not rank among Clint Eastwood's best films and some reasonable viewers might find it plodding. Still, this soundly made three-pronged drama is a quite compelling consideration of the relationship between the living and the dead.

Warner's highly satisfying Blu-ray combo pack offers a fine feature presentation, satisfying behind-the-scenes and topical discussions, the full 90-minute documentary The Eastwood Factor (which sells for over $10 on its own DVD), plus a DVD with digital copy to boot. As the combo is currently selling for less than the Blu-ray alone, I see no reason whatsoever for any Blu-ray consumer to pass up the combo pack for the standalone BD. If you're content with DVD, you may be happy to save a few dollars with that standalone disc, although you'll miss out on the vast majority of extras and you may have to settle for a slightly subpar presentation.

Buy Hereafter from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy / DVD / Blu-ray / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Directed by Clint Eastwood & Starring Matt Damon: Invictus | Written by Peter Morgan: The QueenThe Other Boleyn Girl
Matt Damon: The RainmakerThe Brothers GrimmOcean's ThirteenPonyo | Richard Kind: A Serious Man
Cecile De France: Around the World in 80 Days | Bryce Dallas Howard: The Twilight Saga: EclipseThe Village
New: The FighterWho Do You Think You Are?: Season 1The SwitchYou Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger
The Curious Case of Benjamin ButtonThe Diving Bell and the ButterflyGhostThe Walking Dead: The Complete First Season

Hereafter Licensed Music List: "Piano Concerto #2", Peter Dvorsky - "Una Furtiva Lagrima" from "L'elisir D'amore", Marcello Giordani - "La Fleur Que Tu M'avais Jetée" from "Carmen", Tito Beltran - "Nessun Dorma" from "Turandot", Thomas Harper - "Che Gelida Manina" from "La Bohème"

Hereafter: Original Motion Picture Score
by Clint Eastwood:

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Reviewed March 16, 2011.



Text copyright 2011 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2010 Warner Bros. Pictures, Malpaso Productions, Amblin Entertainment,
and 2011 Warner Home Video. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.