To a great extent, death has always been an element for any Clint Eastwood film, whether he's in front of or behind the camera. The expiring could happen on a street in San Francisco or an alley in Tombstone. Verily, other venue possibilities are numerous.
But with his advancing years, Clint's connection to the demising of the innocent and the guilty has changed, especially in some of his latest work, "Million Dollar Baby," and "Mystic River," being excellent examples.
Directing "Hereafter" proves Eastwood has been considerably re-adjusting his thoughts about death. With Peter Morgan's script, it's not so much how or why a character dies in an Eastwood film, but where he or she goes after, as an old friend of mine used to say, "rolling a deep six."
I refrain from using the term "supernatural" to frame the niche in which "Hereafter" falls. It might be better to simply put it in its own category as... a movie that touches the "extra-natural." Clint has never been one to get grandiose on us, keeping it simple and direct.
Matt Damon is George, an honest psychic, who doesn't want to profit from his "gift." He's a longshoremen on San Francisco Bay and has put behind him "connecting" the living with their dearly departed, except when his exploitative brother, Billy (Jay Mohr), coaxes George into it. People are desperate to communicate with a loved one who's passed, and will pay good money to do so.
Cécile de France is Maria, an at-the-top Paris on-camera TV journalist. Eastwood opens his film on a truly stunning action-packed note: a tsunami smashing into a beach resort where Maria and her producer-boss are hoteled-up for a short holiday. Maria is swept up in the giant surge of ocean and dies, but for only a few, short minutes.
Her trip to Near-Death City makes her a changed woman, holding different priorities to the ones she had: Not so much the electronic muckraker after white collar crooks, etc. and other items that might be found on a progressive newswoman's agenda.
Marcus and Jason are 12 year-old identical twins in London. They live with their alcoholic and disturbed mum (Lindsey Marshal), who stays just one step ahead of the Child Protective Service people in order to keep her boys, whom she loves deeply. Marcus and Jason cover for their mom, so they can continue living with her. The boys are quite mature and extremely close.
Running from some bullies on the street, Jason is hit in traffic and killed instantly. Marcus is devastated and pursues any avenue to connect with his deceased twin. Marcus starts wearing Jason's baseball cap. Frankie and George McLaren, interchangeably, play Marcus and Jason. They're truly identical, and, coincidentally, resemble Ms. Marshal.
So what we have here is... a psychic longshoreman in San Francisco, a Parisian woman just undergoing a near-death experience... and a little boy in London longing to make connection with his dead twin brother: what more could a film script ask for to appeal to just about everyone, whatever age, gender, religion-or-no, or culture?
"Hereafter" begins with a bang, slips into creepiness, then shifts gears to reveal commonality, in a distance way, with "Sleepless in Seattle."
As the finish approaches, old covertly soft-hearted Clint warms it up in satisfying ways to message us that, no matter how much crap is hitting the fan in the world, there may be something bigger than everything in our cognitive-lived lives. Something that Eastwood and Morgan don't necessarily indicate is God or a god, but simply something more important. The graceful closure to "Hereafter" quietly conveys, I believe, what's really important while we're still breathing.
Now playing in select cities, opens wide Friday, 10/22.
See Yahoo Movies-Tulsa for theaters and times.