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Are you afraid to die? Kiefer Sutherland isn't. He's an ambitious, charismatic medical student who persuades classmates Julia Roberts and Kevin Bacon to take part in a reckless experiment. To see if there is life after death, they will kill themselves: temporarily shut down ("flatline") their heart and brain functions to briefly experience clinical death. After Sutherland survives the first experiment, the others flatline for increasingly longer intervals. But their horror begins when they realize that although they've come back alive... they haven't come back alone. FLATLINERS is a chilling suspense thriller of obsession, fear and redemption that will take you across the line to a place where terror lives forever.
What if you could stop your heart to simulate a temporary death, and then be revived so you could describe your near-death experience to others? The mysteries of life--and the afterlife--compel five medical students (Julia Roberts, Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, William Baldwin, Oliver Platt) to experiment with their own mortality, and what they discover has unsettling psychological implications. That's the intriguing premise of this neo-Gothic horror thriller, directed by Joel Schumacher (Batman & Robin) with his typical indulgence of vibrant colors and hyperactive, hallucinogenic style. The movie borders on silliness at times, and the near-death recollection of memories results in some repetitious scenes, but the dynamic young cast takes it all quite seriously, which is what keeps this gaudy thriller on the edge. The fascinating premise could have been made into a better film, but Schumacher's mainstream excess doesn't stop Flatliners from being slick, occasionally even provocative entertainment. --Jeff Shannon
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Some may find this only an average movie but, with a little thought, you may also find this movie filled with some intrigue, horror, and maybe even some real life ideals. And there is some humor.
A personal note: I watched this movie again after watching the remake which was a very poor re-creation.
In 1990, this was a groundbreaking film for the time and was sort of a next step up from the earlier film ALTERED STATES (1980). A good companion film for Flatliners (1990) would be DEAD RINGERS (1988) with Jeremy Irons, or even the classic REANIMATOR (1985) as a triple-header. The film explores the dark reaches of medicine in the hands of reckless people who take dangerous risks to seek forbidden knowledge or proceedures to experience things that are not supposed to be known by the living. This original production has an all-star cast from the period and stands up well to the test of time.
I did not see it when it came out because the reviews weren't that enticing, and, no doubt, there was something more interesting opening that week. Whatever I saw instead was, I am certain, a more satisfying movie, although this one not at all a bad one.
But enough of that. This is the sort of suspense story that plays with whether or not something supernatural is happening. It actually does a pretty good job of it, although I am not sure how realistic its view of medical school (I /think/ these guys are in medical school, as opposed to being residents, but I could be wrong) is.
And, of the two, this is the better movie. For one thing, I almost cared about the characters in this one (the characters in the remake could all have been eaten by the Bugblatter Beast for all I cared about them). I could also tell them apart but, of course, I have seen most of them in other films, which might not have been true had I seen it when it came out.
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However after catching it on late night TV again a few weeks ago, then The Lost Boys a few days later thus sending me on a Kiefer Sutherland 80s jag, I decided to buy it and a few others on dvd to add to my 80s /90s dvd collection (and help me through the current lockdown).
It's not a perfect film and I'm sure there are people who will or have poked holes in plot and medical theory but it remains a very enjoyable film from both visual, character and emotional angles. The music, editing, colour use and atmosphere of the film works really well.
We get to see actors of the time in some of their early roles; Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, WiIliam Baldwin and Oliver Platt and all give very good performances. I watched it this time around for Kiefer, I'm not going to lie and in that essence I was not disappointed. He's always been a very good actor but I'm a particular fan of the 1985-1990 period (I'm an 80s child) and like in other films of this period his character does get battered around a lot and does this incredibly well! He has presence on screen and he gives a sympathetic thread to a character who on the surface could read very unsympathetic.
The dvd was as expected. No extras other than the trailers and filmographies. Subtitles are present and in 14 languages. They are however not particular accurate subtitles and although not hearing impaired I do use them for hard to catch dialogue sometimes. I had to turn these off as the shortened and missed dialogue started to irritate me.
One bit that I had forgotten or which likely didn't bother me back when I was a kid was the intense flashing light used during Rachel's flashback. It hurt my eyes to the point I had to cover so if you are sensitive to this beware when this scene arrives.
I will not give the whole film away suffice it to say, i rate this as a classic. For those who have never seen this then I would highly recommend it and for those who have, treat yourself!