Clint Eastwood, the octogenarian five-time Academy Award winner, has built a reputation as a Hollywood director who turns out engrossing, intelligent movies that break new ground. No flaming car chases with the driver zig-zagging to throw off clinging mutants or zombies. No fights on top of construction booms mounted on skyscraper roofs.
In his new Warner Brothers film Hereafter, director Eastwood weaves together the stories of various people who have been shaken by death – a famous Parisian TV newsreader who undergoes a near-death experience that forever alters her life, a London boy who lost his identical twin brother, and a young woman haunted by a traumatic childhood, among others (the young woman played by director Ron Howard’s daughter).
In the midst of them all is factory worker George Lonegan, portrayed by Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting, the Bourne series), a reluctant clairvoyant who apparently has the ability to communicate with the spirits of the dead. He wants to run away from his gift, but the desperate bereaved keep pursuing him for answers and for contact with their lost loved ones.
The result is what critic Roger Ebert called an “enthralling” movie, which surprised Ebert, who admits he doesn’t believe in “woo-woo.”
Ty Burr chimes in: “Eastwood’s latest is serenely, even masterfully eccentric — the sort of movie that begins with a tsunami and ends with a kiss.”
Besides the movie’s fascinating theme is the fact that Eastwood’s emotional, three-dimensional story makes you truly care about the, shall we say, haunted characters, who are not cardboard cut-outs and clichés.