Sunday, September 24, 2017

Movie Review: "Flatliners" (1990)

Director: Joel Schumacher
Year: 1990
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 55 minutes

A group of medical students studies the afterlife by killing themselves and then resuscitating each other a few minutes after they flat-line. Once back from their near-death experiences, they learn demons from their past have returned with them.

"Flatliners" asks the ultimate unanswerable question, the one that has plagued mankind since we first became self-aware: is there anything else after death? People try to answer this question with logic, using philosophy, and with faith and religion, but it has yet to be answered. Nelson, played by Kiefer Sutherland, and four of his fellow med students, played by Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, William Baldwin, and Oliver Platt, plan to use science to give a definitive answer to the age-old question in the most obvious way possible, by dying, of course!! Clearly, they can't stay dead because if they did, how would they report their findings? Writer Peter Filardi has come up with an interesting concept. How realized that concept becomes when translated to the screen and whether or not director Joel Schumacher can execute those ideas is a different question. Much like our five med students, not everything goes quite as planned.

Filardi and Schumacher take that aforementioned ultimate question and, much like everyone else, offer a simple solution to a complex enigma, leaving absolutely no ambiguity. Is there an afterlife? According to "Flatliners," the answer is yes. In that afterlife, one must face judgment and atone for the sins of their past. Well gee, we've never seen that before! This seems to be something most of the participants of this experiment did not expect, especially Nelson who, as it turns out, was quite a little shit when he was younger, which will make his atonement that much more difficult.

This film is a sci-fi drama with a touch of supernatural horror. Though medical science is at the forefront of the plot, the scientific aspect is more of a thin veneer hiding its more religious and philosophical themes. Unfortunately, this flick handles those themes in a most clumsy way. The overall moral is the most basic one in any religion, that a person must repent and atone for their sins upon death. Not the most original thing ever. One thing "Flatliners" does have going for it is a stellar cast. Most of the players were young up and coming actors at the time but their abilities were certainly present even in an adequate project way back when. None of the performances are award-worthy, but they are solid. The one gripe we do have is it doesn't necessarily feel like Julia Roberts and Kevin Bacon could be, would be, or are lovers. Their chemistry is not that great when they are together. Apart from the acting, there are a few scenes that offer a bit of an ominous tone and manage to create some unease, but we wouldn't say it's overly tension-filled. The afterlife sequences offer a surreal feeling which we like, but Schumacher and Filardi don't offer anything truly outside the box in terms of deep answers to important questions.

In the end, "Flatliners" is a satisfactory movie, though definitely not one we would consider a must-see or a classic. The cast plays their parts well enough so you won't be bored, just know that this could have been a lot more profound.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 6/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 49%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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