Released on September 29, 2017 Rating:
Five medical students embark on a daring and dangerous experiment to gain insight into the mystery of what lies beyond the confines of life. The bold adventure begins when they trigger near-death experiences by stopping their hearts for short periods of time. As their trials become more perilous, each must confront the sins of their past while facing paranormal consequences of journeying to the other side.
You know when you see something that everyone thinks is awesome and you just don’t get it? Well my take on Flatliners is like that, except I think it was awesome and apparently I am the minority. (Full disclosure: I did not know this was a remake until after I saw this film. I have never seen the 1990-version.)
Flatliners has a lot going for it. Cast, pace, visuals, direction, and the overall takeaway. I wasn’t expecting to love this movie, I just thought I would kind of like it, but I really, really liked this movie. It was a nice surprise!
First, because this has been a recent and repetitive gripe of mine – this film was edited well. The pace was on point, and it begins with an opening scene that grabs you, and while it never rushes, it doesn’t waste time between that scene and the very first flatline. This movie is efficient, caring about viewers’ time and attention spans. I appreciated this because a lot of movies today are over two hours and can be self-indulgent, leaving in scenes that should have been left for DVD extras. At the same time, this film doesn’t go too fast. It goes as fast as it can, without being rushed and losing you. I didn’t check the time once. Perfect!
Next up, the cast. Seriously, these actors (particularly Ellen Page, Nina Dobrev and Diego Luna) are, if anything, over-qualified and they give this film everything they have. What could be superficial and border on silly becomes meaningful, complex and beautifully human. Page’s character is the ringleader here, looking into the afterlife because of her own survivor’s guilt (she was driving her little sister somewhere – they crashed and her little sister didn’t make it). This propels her forward and it is predictable but what Page does with it – utterly forgivable. Luna also shines as the sole “reasonable” med student, but he walks this line of confidence and arrogance that you can’t decide until close to the end of the film if he is likeable or not – I loved it. Dobrev also battles her own demons while being the alpha in a way, and her performance was powerful. Flatliners couldn’t have asked for a better cast for this update!
Moving onto the visuals – each flatline is its own unique and incredibly trippy experience. All critics seem to praise the visuals, even saying that they’re used to overcompensate for the material. Meaning, that while I disagree with the “overcompensate” everyone seems to agree that the visuals are beyond cool. I also appreciated that each experience was utterly its own. Having four different flatlines, could have meant aspects of the visuals were similar, themes and emotions and the focus – and they weren’t. Every experience seemed to focus on a different theme/prevailing emotion. Some were glorious, others terrifying. Later in the film, when the flatliners seem to be “haunted” the visuals come back again with a vengeance. This is no ghost story, but there may be a few times when you want to cover your eyes. (I actually did!)
Finally, there is the takeaway. I thought Flatliners was just going to be some sort of thriller (and it is a decent, different thriller FYI), but that isn’t all that it is. Honestly, that would have been enough, but this movie goes a step further. The key to our cast’s survival and to stop their “hauntings” rests on them facing their sins… but not how you’d think. A deeply empowering (I won’t say exactly what/how, because this was a huge moment in the viewing experience for me, I don’t want to spoil it for anyone else) message that makes each character (and perhaps viewers) take a look at their lives from the vantage point of “we could die tomorrow” and live life to the fullest while accepting themselves and their pasts, and learning the lessons they need to move forward. And it wasn’t heavy-handed, but slipped in there. This left me with “Wow” when I walked out. It’s a feeling you always want to leave with!
Were there things that could have made this movie better? Sure. They could have explored what lies beyond life, on the other side. They could have been philosophical or reached for “more” in terms of the grand concepts of life and the afterlife. But for me, this film was everything it needed to be. Doing these things could have altered the pace, tone and runtime. So, while it could have been done and may have made it better, these are just a bunch of “ifs”. Frankly, I’m good with what this film is and I don’t need anything else!
Now be mindful that nearly every critic out there ripped this film to shreds. Few seemed to see what I did, so take what I say with a grain of salt. But if you’re asking me without caring about what anyone else has to say, I’d tell you to go see this film! 😉