Combustible Celluloid
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With: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Scoot McNairy, Maggie Grace, Kevin Zegers, Hannah Ware, Mariana Klaveno, Glenn Morshower, Larry Sullivan, Martin Donovan
Written by: Javier Gullón
Directed by: Elliott Lester
MPAA Rating: R for a scene of violence
Running Time: 94
Date: 04/07/2017

Aftermath (2017)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Flight Weight

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Scoot McNairy give powerful performances in this dire, downbeat drama, but the filmmaking frequently undermines them, choosing shortcuts over deeper, more soulful exploration.

In Aftermath, construction manager Roman (Arnold Schwarzenegger) eagerly prepares to pick up his wife and his pregnant daughter from the airport. He arrives to find, to his absolute horror, that they have died in a plane crash. Meanwhile, air traffic controller Jake (Scoot McNairy) was on the job, dealing with downed phone lines and missing the opportunity to save not one but two flights.

In the days following, Roman mourns his family and Jake experiences intense guilt and pain over the accident. A year later, Roman attends a memorial for the crash victims and Jake has moved to another state and taken a new identity. With help from a reporter, Roman finds Jake's address and decides to see him. All he wants is an apology, but with pain this deep, anything can happen.

Inspired by a true story, Aftermath starts awkwardly with an upbeat beginning — including a rendition of "Jingle Bells" — that guarantees — and cheapens — the tragedy to come. The subsequent setup for the Jake character is equally awkward, and the first 20 minutes taken together shows that director Elliott Lester has little feel for human behavior.

The movie feels more manipulative than it does sympathetic, topped off with an almost constant droning, moaning music score, and very strange touches like a bizarre, busy wardrobe for Schwarzenegger. (In his grief, he wears a tacky sweater with what looks like geese on it.)

Scene after scene consists of the actors trying to convey their inner anguish and the director unable to do anything but remain on the surface. Admittedly, it's difficult for most of us to be able to comprehend a tragedy this huge, but Aftermath doesn't seem to be able to manage it either.

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