Wyndham Hacket Pain @WyndhamHP

It is always interesting when figures from what appears to be the opposite side of the film industry come together. With Aftermath there is on one hand Arnold Schwarzenegger, the much ridiculed former bodybuilder, Governor of California, and action movie veteran. On the other there is Darren Aronofsky, the artsy director of Black Swan, The Wrestler, and Requiem for a Dream, who co-produces this production. Going into the screening of this film it was to be seen how much of an influence the often visionary director would have in this producing role.

What plays out is a genuinely intriguing set of events, based on the 2002 Überlingen airplane collision. Roman (Arnold Schwarzengegger), who loses his wife and daughter in a plane crash, searches for answers and solace following their death. His search leads him to Paul Bonanos (Scott McNairy), the air traffic controller that Roman blames for the crash. The plot teases at themes of grief, guilt, and revenge, and lays the foundation for what could be thought provoking drama.

A tense mood is created with slow camera pans, reminiscent of David Fincher, and the cinematography manages to be both stripped back and controlled. The camera work is effective and credit must go to cinematographer Pieter Vermeer, with Aftermath representing only his third feature length project.

All this promise makes the underwhelming film all the more disappointing. I’m sad to say that Arnold Schwarzengger is central to this project’s failing. There are very specific times, most notably in the Terminator series, where Schwarzenegger’s unique characteristics and delivery match with the character he plays. It’s unfortunate that this is not one of these cases.

There is no way to find positives in his portrayal of the grief stricken Roman. He is a major problem within the effectiveness of the film and appears out of his depth in a role that requires nuance and emotional subtlety. He has built a career on being strange and out of place, and his attempt at portraying normality is stiff and artificial. The press notes suggest that Schwarzenegger has ‘matured’ as an actor in recent years. I can only think that they have mistaken matured with grown a beard.

The rest of the cast are fine, if restricted by some very awkward dialogue. More has to be expected from scriptwriter Javier Gullón who has a number of acclaimed credits to his name, including Denis Villeneuve’s thriller Enemy. There is also a pacing problem to proceedings, with it difficult to know whether days, months, or years have passed between scenes. It is even more frustrating that the script cannot delve into the themes that naturally emerge from the real life events.

In the end an intriguing real life plot and good cinematography are undermined by disjointed dialogue and a poor central performance from Arnold Schwarzenegger. In other hands Aftermath could have been a genuinely interesting look at grief, guilt, and revenge, but instead feels like a second rate thriller. It is not a disaster, but instead a limp parody of the film it could have been.

Aftermath is released on Friday April 7th.


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