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Movie Review: Hereafter

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At the age of 80, Clint Eastwood just keeps pulling surprises out of his back pocket as a director -- the latest being Hereafter, Eastwood's version of a New-Agey entry, opening Friday (10/15/10) in limited release.

Well, perhaps New Age is an unfair categorization. In this film, written by the reliable Peter Morgan, Eastwood offers his take on life after death. In his film, it's out there -- but the people who believe in it aren't necessarily out there, that is, as in over the edge.

Indeed, his hero, George Lonegan (Matt Damon), has the ability to communicate with the dead, although it's more of a one-way street. He clasps hands with the living seeker, who hopes to hear from someone who has passed away. And he inevitably gets a jolt -- like an instant wifi connection with the Great Beyond. He can't talk to them, but he can deliver their messages to their living loved ones.

But for George, it's a burden, not a gift as his brother Billy (Jay Mohr) sees it, but a curse. Which is why he's stopped advertising himself as a psychic or doing readings for people (though he's seen doing exactly that, at his brother's insistence, for a man played by Richard Kind, whose wife has died, as the film begins).

Still, while Damon's is the dominant face in the ads and the name being used to sell the film, it's far from his film alone. Indeed, the film opens with an extended sequence involving one of the other principals, Cecile De France. She's Marie LeLay, a French anchorwoman on vacation in the tropics with her married lover -- when she's caught in a tsunami.

She's swept away by a massive wave that decimates the city street on which she's doing souvenir shopping. Though she's at first able to keep her head above water, she's clunked by debris, knocked unconscious and drowns. Or so it seems.

Her body is dragged to safety and worked over by rescuers, who give her CPR, seemingly to no avail. Even as they work on her, we see her perspective: a bright light, people who obviously are familiar to her (and who obviously aren't involved in the tsunami). Are they dead? In heaven? Where is she exactly?

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