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After a horrific car accident, Anna (Christina Ricci) wakes up to find the local funeral director Eliot Deacon (Liam Neeson) preparing her body for her funeral. Confused, terrified and feeling still very much alive, Anna doesnat believe sheas dead, despite the funeral directoras reassurances that she is merely in transition to the afterlife. Eliot convinces her he has the ability to communicate with the dead and is the only one who can help her. Trapped inside the funeral home, with nobody to turn to except Eliot, Ana is forced to face her deepest fears and accept her own death. But Annaas grief-stricken boyfriend Paul (Justin Long) still canat shake the nagging suspicion that Eliot isnat what he appears to be. As the funeral nears, Paul gets closer to unlocking the disturbing truth, but it could be too late; Anna may have already begun to cross over to the other side.
Quite a few folks in the movies have seen dead people, especially since The Sixth Sense, but After.Life gives this by-now-familiar conceit an intriguing spin. As director-cowriter Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo's 2009 film would have it, the deceased aren't exactly dead. At least not yet; in the days between whatever killed them and the moment they're put in a box and lowered six feet under, they're caught in some kind of purgatory, no longer alive but still able to move and communicate. Not to everyone, of course; only Eliot Deacon (Liam Neeson) has the ability, be it a gift or a curse, to converse with these infernal travelers as he readies them for their final rest in the basement of his funeral home. That's where he meets Anna Taylor (Christina Ricci), who died in a car crash following a nasty argument with her boyfriend, Paul (Justin Long). Anna, not surprisingly, is in denial. How can she be dead, when she can still walk, talk, and experience emotions? Well, it's complicated, but Eliot's there to help her sort it all out--that is, unless he's up to something considerably more sinister, a question that remains in doubt even at the very end. After.Life has a cool concept, a good look, an ominous vibe (driven by former Tangerine Dream member Paul Haslinger's relentlessly spacy, downbeat musical score), and some fine performances. But movies like this depend on the rules and boundaries the filmmakers establish. In The Sixth Sense, those rules ("dead people don't know they're dead," etc.) are simple and consistent. Here they're a bit more confusing. How can the deceased wield a knife, open a locked door, or even make a phone call? If Anna is dead, why can she still see her breath on a windowpane? The willingness to accept such things may well affect one's appreciation of this very absorbing film. --Sam Graham
- Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo
- Delving Into the After.Life: The Art of Making A Thriller
- Theatrical Trailer
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To be clear, “incredible” in the title isn’t used in the normal sense. I actually mean it as a comment about how unbelievable the plot is.
I stumbled across this film by going through the "Customers Also Watched" section of a different movie. Frankly, I chose to watch it because the main characters are all well-known and more-than-capable actors. If I were to go by the cover art, I'd have dismissed it and moved on. It looked silly.
I'll break down this review in a few areas.
As I stated, Justin, Christina, and Liam are all worthy actors, with Christina keeping it safe with the role, Liam naturally turning in a great performance, and Justin, interestingly enough, showing an extensive range.
Generally, it was a credible experience. Liam plays a funeral director and mortician whose attitude fits his career. He's dark, somber. His speaking is lugubrious. Just listening to him, you just know something sinister is amiss, and you know you can't trust him. His on-screen time is well-used and really moves the story along, but he keeps you guessing about the exact sort of relationship he has with the deceased. You find out just the extent of the relationship he has near the end of the movie.
Even when she was on "Adam's Family Values," Christina has always been a skilled actor, with her only growing her skill level as she's gotten older. A lot of this is because of her film choices. She normally chooses dark roles, and they mesh well with her overall dark persona. In this film, she embraces those past film roles and plays a dead woman, or what we think is a dead woman, damn well. A lot of her screen time involves confusion or walking in a depressing reverie, never quite understanding, spiritually speaking, where she is. And you follow her inquisitively to see what the end's going to be. At times – many times, actually – she’s contending with Liam’s character, sometimes in a violent fashion. It all contributes to making this a good movie.
Again, Liam has the most extensive experience and is the most comfortable playing this role, or any role for that matter. Again, he's a funeral director, and he shows that he has a curious relationship with the people he's preparing for burial. Nothing about him gives away what his goal is. You genuinely believe that he has a special relationship with the dead. And when he has the big reveal near the end, you are shocked about what his real intentions are.
Everything was professional. The angles were always just right for the moment. The scenery was appropriate for a dark film. They really didn't do a lot of bright shots. Although there were shots of them in the sun, for the most part, everything was dreary. It really keeps you from rushing to try to figure out what's really happening.
This is why I rated an otherwise great movie three stars. The plot is good, and the dénouement is worth watching. The ending is sad. The problem, however, is that the plot's not logical. I'm not suggesting that all plots have to pass the logic test; far from it. But this film is based on duties that a funeral director would assume. But how Liam is able to obtain death certificates for all "clients" but they all turn out to really be alive, just paralyzed by chemicals administered by him is nonsensical. How they can be pronounced dead before they arrive but suddenly be alive enough to have discussions with Liam's character is ridiculous. It appears that everyone lives in a small town. Whoever the coroner is should be fired and tried in court for utter stupidity for the number of people he/she claims is dead.
Second, while the chemicals Liam injects his "customers" with can cause hallucinations and other psychotic tendencies, it wouldn't explain how his customers can look in a mirror and see themselves as deceased. Christina did this very thing and saw a pale, sickly, morbid-looking body, which was described in perfect detail by Liam. How is this?
Third, while Christina was being prepared, we see Liam bring in a new body and starts have a conversation with him as if that person is responding to him. Why would he do that? To give the impression to Christina's character that he really can speak to the dead? Who knows?
It's a good film, and it'll keep you watching to the end. The acting is good, especially from Justin, and you always feel invested in what's happening with everyone and what they're going through. It's just problems arise when you sit and think about how plausible it is for this many people to be buried alive without a single person knowing.
Disregard the logic, and you'll find this to be a definite must-watch.
Most recent customer reviews
Liam Neeson is great as always, Christina Ricci is terrible, the plot is interesting and unique.Read more