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“Flatliners” falls flat

Oplev’s film shows the semi-predictability of 21st century supernatural flicks.  |


As the body of Christ, we often think about our lives beyond earth. The question of heartbeat stopped, afterlife started remains a commonplace phrase for any believer to process, one that most likely excites hearts much more than stresses out or confuses brains. Ultimately followers of Christ know where they are going, and that’s a pretty spectacular place with even better company to partake in. But think about not having the comfort and aspiration of heaven. That lack of comfort looks much like the curiosity and fear protagonist Courtney Holmes, played by Ellen Page, feels. This would present an entirely haunting fear for an unbeliever. How can there be any peace about where one is going if there is no choice made to believe?

unoriginal and underwhelming

The new seat-gripping film “Flatliners” takes on a plot in which five medical school students undergo a rather risky procedure. Holmes introduces the rest of her friends to a concept she calls “flatlining,” in which she asks them to stop her heartbeat, keep her under for a few minutes and then bring her back. Her piercing curiosity for the afterlife and what it entails motivates her to tread on such uncertain ground. She has done extensive research on this but wants a better understanding of it still—a realistic understanding. Their journey begins as all but one of them undergoes the same wild procedure. This exciting and wonderful procedure begins to unlock memories and information from their past which leads to a new level of intelligence.

But things quickly turn awry as they begin to deal with their demons. They come in vivid hauntings that keep them awake at night. This part of the film honestly thoroughly disappointed me. Although the cinematography was beautifully crisp and crafted, and the soundtrack appropriately fit each beat, the “demonic” haunting of their past sins proved unoriginal and underwhelming. Director Niels Arden Oplev appears to have taken a bit of a lazy approach in supplying viewers with a predictable set of side effects. He seemed to want to make the subject supernatural and spiritual, but yet overtly scream, “God isn’t real! Just the demons of the spiritual world might be.”

disparate storytelling

Believers will find even more frustration as the only mention of God in the whole film comes in a small passing as Nina Dobrev’s character, Marlo, mentions that maybe they should pray since everyone has started to go crazy. Another character mocks this and acts as if she is being utterly silly for even thinking such a thought. After the film avoided the supernatural progression of mentioning the importance of God in the afterlife, the storytelling took an unfortunate turn.

Although they chose a line of thought that could have been avoided, there were still things done well. Oplev did a fantastic job of allowing his characters not to take themselves too seriously in a contextual film that could have gone very wrongly if they had. Throughout the film, one could tangibly feel the chemistry between the five, especially in their engaging communal energy. All in all, its novice cast was entirely enjoyable, including the disparate storytelling through five different lenses, especially through the lens of Ray, played by Diego Luna, who perpetually reminded them that they should not be dabbling with that world anyway. The film definitely has some worth as Oplev found an entertaining way to tell an otherwise cheesy story, but it might not satisfy those who enjoy something beyond the surface.  

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