Flatliners (2017)

flat1I’m sitting here feeling somewhat numb. What can I possibly write about this new edition of Flatliners? It feels about as pointless as the film itself. I expected it would be bad, but it turns out it’s worse than I had imagined. Frankly, life is too short, but here goes, I’ll try keep this brief-

I remember watching the 1990 original of Flatliners and thinking it was pretty good at the time- I saw it on VHS rental, so what, that’s 25+years ago now, and I can’t recall watching it again since, as it was pretty forgettable really, the most notable thing about it being the cast (Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon), who all went on to bigger better things. The set-up (medical students deliberately flatline/kill themselves for a few minutes prior to being resuscitated in order to study/discover what happens after death), is daft but full of potential- I remember hoping for something like Brainstorm, a film that would offer an answer to the inevitable questions: is there a Heaven, is there a Hell, or is there Nothing? At least Brainstorm, for all its flaws, had suggested an answer, albeit just really offering familiar religious iconography in doing so, but hey, it’s one of my guilty pleasures and it’s a decent movie. But Flatliners just ducked the questions like a coward, afraid to upset anyone in the audience and offered up guilt-trips instead, but hey, that’s show business, and I believe it made lots of money (more than Brainstorm, certainly).

Incredibly, this new Flatliners makes the exact same mistake but compounds it by featuring a mostly uninteresting cast of unconvincing and bland characters with a script that is shockingly inept. Its terrible, really, not that I should perhaps be surprised, but really, the stupidity is what’s most shocking. Ellen Page’s character flatlines and has an out-of-body ‘experience’ of rising up out of the hospital into the sky above it, afterwards convincing her colleagues by daft nonsense like “I flew above the roof of the hospital- I’ve never seen the roof of the hospital before!” as if thats some kind of proof. Suddenly she’s super-smart and can also play the piano, but these sudden bursts of knowledge and creativity, a catalyst for others of the group to give flatlining a go, is subsequently ditched as a plotpoint in favour of jump-scares and standard horror tropes. Religious imagery seems to have been consciously avoided in order to not question any audience belief-system. Its therefore completely anemic and bloodless and boring, certainly to me. And none of it makes any sense- the film suggests that everything is happening in each person’s mind, like a guilt-trip for past transgressions, but this does not explain how Ellen Pages character gets dragged across the floor of her apartment or how James Norton’s character gets stabbed in the hand by a knife. Its preposterous and silly nonsense that falls apart with any thought.

But you know, it really is so typical of the bullshit modern films have become. The characters are all beautiful and rich. They are all students, but one drives a new car (minus plates) another rides a big motorbike, one of them lives in a big apartment, another in a luxurious home, another lives on a bloody yacht for goodness sake. After a cursory glance at fancy 3D graphics on a laptop following the first experiment, they follow the further flatline experiments by going to rave parties or dances, getting drunk or having sex, they don’t seem to delve into the successive medical results or ponder What It All Means or worry about getting a night’s sleep before attending med school the next day. And don’t get me started about how fully-functioning and totally unmonitored medical machinery and equipment just conveniently sits in the hospital basement for our characters to play with each night.

Horrible. Time to dig out my Brainstorm Blu-ray I think and thank the lord no-one has sullied it by a vapid remake featuring young beautiful Somethings. Yet.

A Day for Heroes: Patriots Day

patsy.jpg2017.65: Patriots Day (2016)

On the face of it, Patriots Day is a great, taut thriller recounting the dramatic events of the Boston marathon bombing of 2013. Even for viewers fully aware of what happened, the film manages a relentless sense of tension as everything unfolds, and it’s certainly very efficiently staged.

However, it’s also a Hollywood movie, so it’s filled with all sorts of well-known faces, and this may just be my own personal thing, but it always distracts me somewhat from what should be a riveting docu drama account when I see some guy from the latest King Kong film or Justice League or those mobile ads on British tv. It’s no fault of the actors themselves (and indeed it’s great seeing Kevin Bacon doing some proper acting for once), but just seeing their faces pull me out of it all a little, whereas it might be thoroughly engaging with a cast of unknowns. There’s an awful lot of distracting cinematic baggage being carried around in some of these scenes.

Moreover, I clearly have a problem with Mark Wahlberg, a guy who irritates me in most films he appears in, and moreso here when I learned his character is entirely fictional in this film. His character is obviously a construct to enable the narrative flow of the events to centre on one character that the audience can ‘root’ for, but unfortunately it feels… I don’t know; manipulative? All films are manipulative, but a film like this that purports, quite rightfully to some degree, to be very accurate in depicting the events and those real people who were caught up in in it, to then throw up a main antagonist who didn’t exist…. I don’t know. Maybe me real problem is my dislike for Wahlberg. For me he is Wahlberg, always Wahlberg, an extremely limited actor who somehow remains very popular with audiences and is a very successful producer (if only he’s remain behind the camera).  It doesn’t help that some of his speeches here are so on the nose and awkward, or that he always seems to be where something is happening (its as if he has a twin, how he manages to pop up all the time). He’s unnecessary, he’s irritating. It’s like he’s there just to bankroll/sell the movie, which is a shame, the subject should be enough.

So anyway, Patriots Day is, with some reservations regards polemic politics/patriotism and certain casting choices, a very good thriller and a commendable film about recent real-life events. It’s a pity that the British film industry hasn’t yet found it worthy to make a film about similar events in our own country, but films about a bear seem to be an easier sell to a country depressed enough about Brexit etc.