Review by L.L. Soares
There seems to be a renewed interest in near-death experiences, or perhaps “temporarily dead” experiences is more accurate. This was a major storyline in the recent Netflix series THE OA (2016) starring Brit Marling, which I liked a lot (I just heard it got renewed for a second season), and it’s also the impetus behind the new movie FLATLINERS, which is itself a remake of a movie of the same name from 1990. The 90s version (directed by Joel Schmacher) had a “who’s who” of hot young actors at the time, including Julia Roberts, Kiefer Sutherland and Kevin Bacon, as medical students experimenting on each other to see what’s after death. This time around, the biggest names are Ellen Page and Diego Luna.
Page (also in HARD CANDY, 2005, JUNO, 2007 and INCEPTION, 2010) plays Courtney, a smart (and very serious) medical student who’s working as a resident in a metropolitan hospital. Her fellow students/residents include Ray (Diego Luna, also in the Mexican arthouse classic, Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN, 2001, as well as Hollywood movies like MILK, 2008 and ELYSIUM, 2013), Jamie (James Norton, also in the TV series HAPPY VALLEY, 2014 -2016, GRANTCHESTER, 2014 – 2017, and episodes of BLACK MIRROR IN 2016 and DR. WHO in 2013), Marlo (Nina Dobrev, also in the TV show THE VAMPIRE DIARIES, as well as movies like CHLOE, 2008 and xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE, 2017), and Sophia (Kiersey Clemens, also on the TV series EXTANT, 2015, TRANSPARENT and NEW GIRL). Together, they dare to face death head-on, to see what lies beyond the veil.
Courtney is the one who finds a disused backup hospital area in the basement of the hospital where they all have their residency. It’s for use in case of emergency, but it’s mostly abandoned. However, it has drugs and equipment aplenty! She invites her best friend, Sophia, and fellow student Jamie to meet her down there under false pretenses, then convinces them to go along with a crazy experiment where they stop her heart for a minute, record her brain activity during death, and then bring her back. Things don’t go the way they planned, and Sophia contacts Ray, probably the best student in their class, to come help. Together, they bring Courtney back from the dead.
But she’s changed. First off, she had some weird experiences in death, including feeling surrounded by “pure energy.” She can recall details from the past that come in handy, knows all the answers to test questions, and can suddenly play the piano really well. Her brain seems energized by her near-death experience. So, of course, her friends want to experience it as well.
It’s back to the secret lab in the basement, as each of them take their turns. Jamie, Sophia, and Mario each have similar experiences and come back revitalized. Ray, the smart one, won’t do it, but he’s constantly around to help the others out of tough spots. Near-death experiences also appear to make people horny, so there’s plenty of after-death-experience sex to go around, too.
But it’s not all happiness and warmth. There are side effects. They start seeing people who should be dead—specifically people whose deaths they feel responsible for—and these hauntings scare the hell out of them. It’s in this aspect that the movie starts to get a FINAL DESTINATION (2000) vibe of death wanting to drag them back.
I went in with low expectations for this movie. It’s a remake, and the trailer didn’t look all that promising, but the strongest aspect of the film is the acting. The cast is very strong, and I liked all of the leads. I’m an Ellen Page fan, so I was happy to see her here, but all of her fellow students are just as good, and there’s even Kiefer Sutherland (from the original FLATLINERS) here in the role of a hard-nosed doctor/teacher who pummels them with questions about the cases they are working on in the hospital.
Danish director Niels Arden Oplev does a good job as well. He previously gave us such movies as the original THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2009), DEAD MAN DOWN (2013), and the pilot episode of the series UNDER THE DOME (2013).
I also liked the effective score by Nathan Barr, who also did the music for HOSTEL (2005), THE LAST EXORCISM (2010) and shows like TRUE BLOOD (2008 – 2014) and HEMLOCK GROVE (2013 – 2015).
But the screenplay by Ben Ripley (who also wrote SOURCE CODE, 2011) —based on the original story by Peter Filardi who wrote the original movie—is the one weak link here. The movie starts out good, and it’s pretty solid through most of its running time, but then, toward the end, things really start to fall apart, starting with a really stupid thing that the character Marlo does at one point (I liked her a lot otherwise), and then unraveling from there. It was one of those movies where I had a good time, but then felt like yelling at the screen as the last part just got really dumb.
Which is too bad, because, for the most part, I had a good time with FLATLINERS. It’s worth seeing, but maybe wait until it’s on a streaming service. I give it two and a half knives.
© Copyright 2017 by L.L. Soares
LL Soares gives FLATLINERS (2017)~two and a half knives.