When French journalist and television presenter Marie Lelay (Cécile De France) was in southern Asia researching a story into slave labour, something terrible happened. It was 2005, and the tsunami struck as she was staying at the hotel by the shore when the water engulfed the beach, then the streets and she was swept along, eventually falling unconscious thanks to the buffeting and debris around her. However, she was revived thanks to quick-thinking rescuers and as she came to, she realised she had had an experience far stranger than anything she could have imagined - or did she imagine it? Had she really seen the afterlife in a near-death experience while she was under?
As a film star, Clint Eastwood tends to play winners, or at least the capable in their own worlds, even the ones who meet with trouble, but as a director his affinity with the underdog was an underrated quality not often commented upon. Here he helmed a tale of three underdogs, or three tales to be exact that tied together at the end in largely unsurprising fashion, but the journey was the important thing here, and what we learned about it. He did not often dabble in the fantastical, but in this he embraced the questions in Peter Morgan's screenplay, itself a departure for the author who tended to adapt real life stories and personalities to television and film variations on their lives.
Steven Spielberg was a producer on this too - it was made by his Amblin company - which should have indicated a reasonably solid pedigree yet never really clicked with most audiences, never mind the critics. It tended to be those who were accepting of the psychic theme who most appreciated what Eastwood and Morgan were trying to put across, though that was not straightforward by any means, as the message was not to contact the dead to find out what it was like in the world beyond, it was far more not to bother yourself with it until the time came to encounter it first hand, or not, as the case may have been. Live your own life, it said, don't live your life pining after the lost loved ones.
It should be noted when one character sought out mediums and paranormal investigators to assuage his own desperate loneliness now his brother was no longer there, the film made it obvious they were all charlatans or fantasists, or both, and that a true psychic is tough to find. After all, Derren Brown can demonstrate all sorts of mindreading and clairvoyant abilities, and he says he never uses any supernatural powers, it all cold reading and an acute sense of what people are thinking and want to think. But this was not a story that set out to expose the psychic industry, a lucrative way of parting the gullible from their money the critics would have observed, as there was one genuine medium character who took up one of the trio of narratives, played by Matt Damon in everyman mode.
Except, of course, Damon's George Lonegan was not an everyman, for ever since he had an accident in childhood he was able to contact the spirits of the dead, simply by touching people and knowing what their dead friends and relatives wanted to tell them, if anything. We see him refusing to continue with his powers as it has ruined his chances at a proper relationship, and when he attends night classes to be an Italian cook, he meets Bryce Dallas Howard who seems nice and friendly, possible partner material. Then the "reality" of what happens when she finds out what he can do sabotages that as time and again, dabbling in the afterlife results in heartache and trauma: there was a degree of finger wagging to Hereafter as if Eastwood was saying, sure, here's your fairy tale, but remember real life isn't like that. With such eccentricities as Derek Jacobi appearing as himself, and a series of London terrorist bombings that are mere background to the main plot arc, there was a lot not quite on kilter about this; finally, it unsatisfied when its muted tone was so uncertain. Music by Eastwood.
Becoming a superstar in the late 1960s gave Clint Eastwood the freedom to direct in the seventies. Thriller Play Misty for Me was a success, and following films such as High Plains Drifter and The Outlaw Josey Wales showed a real talent behind the camera as well as in front of it. He won an Oscar for his downbeat Western Unforgiven, which showed his tendency to subvert his tough guy status in intriguing ways. Another Oscar was awarded for boxing drama Million Dollar Baby, which he also starred in.
Also a big jazz fan, as is reflected in his choice of directing the Charlie Parker biopic Bird. Other films as director include the romantic Breezy, The Gauntlet, good natured comedy Bronco Billy, Honkytonk Man, White Hunter Black Heart, The Bridges of Madison County, OAPs-in-space adventure Space Cowboys, acclaimed murder drama Mystic River, complementary war dramas Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima and harrowing true life drama Changeling. Many considered his Gran Torino, which he promised would be his last starring role (it wasn't), one of the finest of his career and he continued to direct with such biopics as Jersey Boys, American Sniper and The Mule to his name.