SONY PICTURES (2017)
Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Starring: Ellen Page, Diego Luna, Nina Dobrev, James Norton, Kiersey Clemons, Kiefer Sutherland

“It’s a great day to die!”

 

Joel Schumacher’s 1990 original Flatliners gave us a great premise and a great cast, but the movie itself was disappointing (though box office takings were respectable). Atmospheric but ultimately lacking in execution, it fell apart as the movie unravelled. Whilst this iteration is a wholly unnecessary remake, Flatliners is, in reality, a movie that is ripe for a redesign to elevate it to the level it deserved and director Niels Arden Oplev has assembled a strong cast to take on the mission.

 

Annoyingly, the movie suffers the same fate as its predecessor.

Courtney (Page), an intelligent medical student, is determined to discover the secrets of the afterlife, needing something to cling to after the death of her younger sister in a crash she was culpable for. She devises a plan that will stop her heart and allow for her brain activity to be recorded once her body shuts down – the hook is that she also has a plan to be revived after sixty seconds. In an unused makeshift ward deep in the bowels of the hospital they work at, and after roping in her student friends, Jamie (Norton) and reluctant Sophia (Clemons), she is successfully ‘killed’. It doesn’t all go to plan as the efforts to resuscitate her prove to be unsuccessful until pragmatic Ray (Luna) shows up to save the day.

 

After the flatline, Courtney begins to flourish at activities she has long forgotten and experiences increased intelligence and lust for life. The gang, now including Marlo (Dobrev), decide they want in on the flatlining game and one by one take the plunge into the ether and back. Ray isn’t having any of it, and with good judgment too, as the remaining members of the group all begin to experience haunting memories from their past that threaten to pull them back into death.

 

Flatliners is not an awful movie, I’ll put that out there from the start. It’s just…uninspired. The movie doesn’t really seem to want to get anywhere and when it does, there’s no explanation or follow-through. Characters are physically wounded or suffocated, and then the movie ignores this and carries on. After a solid opening to the movie, including the initial act of flatlining, the movie meanders on and erodes away with each plot beat. It’s a very frustrating experience.

 

The acting is surprisingly good throughout, considering the material the cast are given to work with. Ellen Page and Diego Luna are the standouts with ardent performances, but there are no real bum notes. Kiefer Sutherland appears to link the two movies in a non-existent, pointless way - there’s no mention of the past events and his character is not referenced at all, but thanks for popping by Kief.

 

The biggest downfall of Flatliners is the atrocious dialogue. It’s seriously bad. Characters insist on spelling everything out to each other, even the most obvious of things, and it reminded me of a movie that should’ve been released in the heyday of crap dialogue horror movies - the early-2000’s. It had that feeling surrounding it at times, an I Know What You Did Last Summer vibe of poor dialogue and stereotyped characters. When Sophia bellowed the immortal line, “Why didn't you tell us that there was a downside to flatlining?”, I was sure that the writers were having some strange in-joke at our expense. There’s a moment where Marlo opens up to Ray, in what is supposed to be an emotional scene, however, once she confides in him that she’s an accidental murderer, Ray’s first instinct is to have sex with her. It’s a turn on, the old murdering…Dirty Diego. Lazily, there’s horror clichés aplenty and the atmosphere that is desperately trying to build never quite accomplishes its goal. The movie does provide a few light comedic moments that hit the mark, however, and that was welcome to break up the gloom and horrid dialogue.

 

Also, flatlining gives you the overwhelming urge to smash your living room wall in.

 

Also also, Dirty Diego has some great dad dance moves.

 

Also also also, Dirty Diego’s hair was off-putting

 

Also also also also, I’m a big fan of Diego Luna.

 

As mentioned, the movie starts off really well, it just collapses with a self-redemption arc that plagues Flatliners with an overwhelming predictability and just adds to the shocking editing and pacing issues.

 

From a visual point of the view, the movie looked good. Combining clinical hospital ward scenes with sprawling cityscapes at night, there’s a lot to like about the cinematography. The ‘dream-like’ sequences were well-shot but lacked the required tension. The one scene that really worked was Courtney’s confession and subsequent events – it had good acting, a sense of dread and was well-shot throughout, providing the high point of Flatliners.

 

It’s a strange one this, the writing, editing and clichés dragged the movie down, however, the acting was very good and the viewing experience itself was not the worst I’ve had this year – in fact, there have been a fair few movies released in 2017 that are far worse. It’s just frustrating as the threads were there to be connected, unfortunately, it just couldn’t be done. More tedious than exciting, but there’s just enough here to give Flatliners a steady, gentle pulse.

 

Keep your defibrillator handy, just in case.

October 19th 2017

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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