Rated: PG-13 for mature thematic elements including disturbing disaster and accident images, and for brief strong language.
Length: 129 minutes
Budget: $50 million
Box Office: $108 million (33 U.S., 71 Intl., 4 DVD)
Written by: Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon, The Other Boleyn Girl, The Queen, and The Last King of Scotland)
Directed by: Clint Eastwood (Invictus, Gran Torino, Changeling, Flags of Our Fathers, Million Dollar Baby, Blood Work, Space Cowboys, True Crime, Absolute Power, Bridges of Madison County, Unforgiven, Rookie, Heartbreak Ridge, Pale Rider, Firefox, Sudden Impact, The Gauntlet, Outlaw Josey Wales, and The Eiger Sanction)
Starring: Matt Damon
With: Cecile de France, Jay Mohr, and Frankie and George McLaren
Three stories of loss and pain coincide in this metaphysical drama based on a man who can actually communicate messages from dead people to their loved ones after touching them.
Entertainment Value: D+
Despite having Matt Damon (whose acting I generally like), this was tedious. And when it wasn’t, it was unpleasant. For instance, one of the major plot threads involves a young boy being killed when a car hits him. This scene was long enough for the anticipation to become really uncomfortable for anyone with kids, like me. I don’t need to see that. Perhaps I was overly optimistic about a Clint Eastwood movie, but Clint is really hit and miss lately. Gran Torino was fantastic, but Invictus was just okay. One thing I noticed was that the music was far too noticeable, jarring almost in a way that became a running observation joke with my wife.
Superficial Content: C
Drugs/Alcohol C, Sex/Nudity B, Violence C+, Language C
A mother is shown drunk and her heroin and pill use is implied. There’s one absolutely inexplicable scene of a woman in her underwear and an implied sexual assault against a young girl years ago. Violence includes the aforementioned death of a boy, the impact from a tsunami and the deaths resulting from it, and some scenes of hospice care. Language alone puts it at PG-13 for (again) inexplicable use of F and S profanity just occasionally.
Significant Content: C
Clint Eastwood is so ripe for evangelism it makes me want to scream. He clearly has loads of pre-Christian ideas and I think the problem is that his misunderstanding of the Gospel keeps him from considering Jesus seriously. The basic idea here is that people want the closure of one last connection with their dead loved ones, for which they will do almost anything. The afterlife is real (that’s good to see represented), but it’s a kind of semi-happy universalism where everyone is gathered on the shore waiting for us. God is not present at all, and is even briefly mocked as another con along with fake psychics. Some abilities seem like blessings but can feel like curses. Everything happens for a reason. We resist being defined by our gifts, perhaps wrongly.
Artistic/Thought Value: D
It may just be my Christian biases here, but there was very little in this movie that made me really want to discuss it with anything. If it’s not unfair to say so, I thought Eastwood was beating me over the head with his peculiar vision of eternity, spirituality, and life. Everyone is a fraud except this one guy (and the movie we’ve made to show him to you)?
~Do you think the ability to communicate like George can would be a blessing or a curse? Would you be inclined to sell your services? Given the eagerness of all the fakes to do so and George’s reluctance, does “monetizing” spiritual services seem like a good indicator of falsehood? Why does George’s brother have such a hard time understanding his reluctance to profit on it? What does the Bible say about selling God or His blessings?
~George resists the tendency to be defined by his gift. Do you think he’s right for this? How do our gifts relate to our identities?
~Why does George not want to bless others through his ability? Are his reasons decent? If someone had this ability, would it be wrong to keep it from helping people ? If his ability made it impossible to have a romantic relationship, would you say his life was ruined or fulfilled by giving himself to others?
~One of the great appealing aspects of George is his reluctance. What can we learn about this with regards to our own evangelistic approaches?
~The former atheist researcher implies that challenging the secular humanism of our modern world will be costly. Do you think this is true?
~What does the Bible say about communicating with the dead? Why do you think God made it to work that way?
Poignant or memorable scenes:
The boy being killed.
The date at George’s house. Why does he resist doing a reading for her? Are his concerns legitimate? Do you think knowing people too well too quickly is a barrier to intimacy or relationship? Is it the quickness or the asymmetry of it (she doesn’t also know him so well) that ruins things here?
Overall Grade: C-
A heavy-handed and mostly uninspired presentation of universalism and the ability to connect with dead people.