Review: Aftermath

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PLOT: After a devastating air collision results in the death of his wife and daughter, a man (Arnold Schwarzenegger) becomes dangerously obsessed with the air traffic controller (Scoot McNairy) who was on-duty during the accident .

REVIEW: Arnold Schwarzenegger deserves a heck of a lot of credit. While his post-gubernatorial film career has never reached the heights he knew during his prime, he could have still gone down the DTV road some of his peers, like Nicolas Cage or Bruce Willis, went-down, taking paycheck roles and moving on. Instead, Arnold’s DTV fare is ambitious, risky-stuff that’s about as far removed from what his contemporaries are doing as possible. MAGGIE, was atypical fare featuring the best acting he’s done since at least the nineties and AFTERMATH, which has none other than Darren Aronofsky on-board as producer (the “produced by Darren Aronofsky and Arnold Schwarzenegger” credit is surreal) is an even more radical departure.

Helmed by Eliott Lester, who also directed one of Jason Statham’s more character-driven entries, BLITZ, in addition to the well-received HBO telefilm NIGHTINGALE (with David Oyelowo), AFTERMATH is a slow-burn drama and unlike anything Schwarzenegger’s ever attempted. While not quite strong enough to escape the DTV label, it’s still a well-made, thought-provoking melodrama with some stunning work – not the least of which comes from Arnold himself.

Stripped of all vanity, with Arnold even doing a nude scene early-on that shows how his physique has been affected by age (although he still looks pretty great for sixty-nine), he digs deep throughout the quick ninety minute running time. Playing it small and realistic, the same as he did in MAGGIE (others would have gone bombastic), Schwarzenegger’s really found a style of dramatic acting that works for him. The shock he feels when told about the air incident is brilliantly downplayed, making his eventual breakdown when he talks his way into participating in a wreckage disaster search team all the stronger. Schwarzenegger never milks the emotion of a scene, playing him as a man totally broken and confused by his predicament, with no idea how to act other than clinging to the notion that he has to do something. A scene where the airline tries to buy him off is especially well-acted, with no speeches or tears, simply a request that someone, anyone, apologize and take responsibility for the accident.

That his eventual target is Scoot McNairy’s air traffic controller turns AFTERMATH into a tragedy, with him wholly undeserving of Schwarzenegger’s wrath. We see how a split second distraction is enough to cause the calamitous accident, and the scene where McNairy breaks-down after hearing what he’s done is gut-wrenching stuff. He’s shown to be a likable guy right from the start, with an adoring wife (nicely played by Maggie Grace) and son. We don’t want him to become Arnold’s target, but we know it’s inevitable.

When it’s played as a two-hander, split between Schwarzenegger and McNairy, AFTERMATH is good enough that one wonders why it didn’t get a festival run. It’s better than a lot of the movies I saw at Sundance this year. It does occasionally go wrong, such as an unconvincing subplot involving a journalist (Hannah Ware), who makes an astonishingly wrong-headed choice that never rings true. A tag-on ending also tries to add a note of redemption that doesn’t quite work, with a melodramatic twist that would have been excised in a more daring film.

Otherwise, AFTERMATH is one of those obscure VOD gems that deserves to be discovered. As long as they know what they’re in for (and they should) Arnold fans will be delighted to see how good he can still be if given the chance, while everyone else will be amazed by the way he seems to have reinvented himself as a character actor. That he’s done such a good job of it is a wonderful surprise, and here’s hoping he gets more opportunities to explore this new flair for drama.

Extra Tidbit: I have a thought - Arnold Schwarzenegger for the English TONI ERDMANN remake (should Jack Nicholson step-down).
Source: JoBlo.com



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