Film Review: Hereafter (2010)

One of the most striking things about Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter is that it seems defiant to fit into a specific genre.  With its opening tsunami sequence could come expectations of a disaster flick.  Then we see the sparkling romance of a French couple.  Over and over, we are introduced to new characters and worlds that differ greatly.

Hereafter borders the genres of drama, thriller, sci-fi, and romance, yet it never settles into one of them.  It is not a disaster film.  Even though the first hour seems sluggish, the second half is very rewarding.  There is a great deal of romantic chemistry between Matt Damon and Bryce Dallas Howard, though their relationship never reaches any visible conclusion.

All the performers are very good, especially Damon, playing a reluctant psychic trying to find his purpose in life.  Against what one might expect, he is not fully given the spotlight.  Eastwood gives equal screen time to French actress, Cecile De France, here acting as a French T.V. journalist.

In the end, writer Peter Morgan leaves the audience with a bitter longing.  I won’t ruin the conclusion, it is a sweeping and enchanting finale, but it remains one that does not answer all the questions.  A two hour and ten minute movie should be resolved a little more.  But this also adds to Hereafter‘s uniqueness.  It remains realistic by the way people come and go and opportunities appear and dissolve.  The addition of psychics makes such a movie even more unpredictable.

Rating: 4/5

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Film Review: Yojimbo (1961)

Ten years of after Rashomon, the great Akira Kurosawa was still at the top of his game when he made Yojimbo, the darkly comical ‘samurai western’ that inspired Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars.  Toshiro Mifune stars here and he was obviously the model after which Clint Eastwood fashioned his own legendary performance.

The picture’s storyline is simple, but it is so well done that the audience might not notice.  It tells of a wandering samurai (Mifune) who stumbles on a town split in half.  Each side despises the other and hires men to fight against its enemy.  The samurai, named Sanjuro, soon upon arrival exhibits his skills with a sword and is begged by both sides to join the fight with them.

But Sanjuro is a clever scoundrel and decides to wait for the best offer.  It is only a matter of time before he has to make a choice and become part of the battle.  With his entrance into the battle comes a bloody massacre that eventually eliminates both sides.

The brutal ending finishes the film with a dark tone, but Kurosawa has sprinkled around just enough witty humor to balance it all out.  The memorable score plays a major role, making the action more excitable and the emotion more palpable.

Kurosawa’s techniques in storytelling and camera work look as masterful as they ever have.  I enjoyed this picture as much as I did Rashomon, and I highly recommend it.  Whether or not you have seen a Japanese film is irrelevant, for Yojimbo would be a great introduction.

Rating: 5/5