Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Scoot McNairy. Director: Elliott Lester Distributor: Signature Entertainment
Schwarzenegger is back…in a serious role.
Based on true events, Aftermath presents two individual journeys before, during and after a fatal collision between two planes. Schwarzenegger’s Roman and Scoot McNairy’s Jake are both victims in this tragedy, but victims standing on opposite sides of the tragedy.
Opening with Roman’s chapter/story, we see that he is a construction worker waiting for his wife and pregnant daughter to arrive home from a flight – in these sequences we see that Roman is clearly excited for their arrival having constructed welcoming decoration in the family home, as well as sporting his best floral-ish shirt under a leather jacket (Style Icon). At the airport, however, things are beyond bad: an accident has occurred, and it is unlikely that any have survived.
Transitioning to Jake’s story, we first see him sexually engaging with his partner, and then overlooking their child before he heads to work for his nightshift at air traffic control. Once in the control tower with Jake, having already seen Roman’s opening chapter, the viewer is placed into a position of jeopardy once there is a signal of danger – the viewer knows what will happen but is powerless to prevent it. The intensity is thrilling despite knowing what will happen.
Subsequently, Roman is advised to seek support, whilst Jake is facing a lawsuit after being put at fault. Roman is persuaded to settle outside of court, whilst Jake is disconnecting from his partner and child. Roman poses no interest in a financial victory against the airport, but wants a face-to-face apology from the individual at fault (Jake). Jake is faced with an ultimatum: accept a much lower-graded job at the airport or accept a new identity, job and home to move into in a different city – for safety, Jake has to accept the latter. Roman only wants an apology. Will Roman find out who is at fault and get an apology? Can Jake maintain this new life, hidden away from his family?
Acting-wise, Arnold is Arnold, but not classic Arnold. Whilst underrated in regards to his more sincere and heartfelt acting, plus the presentation of depression, Schwarzenegger is terrific though it is overwhelmingly obvious that his character, Roman, lacks development in Aftermath. This, of course, isn’t at the fault of Schwarzenegger, but instead the duration of the film overall. For this topic and story, 90 minutes is not sufficient – another 20 minutes could have righted the wrongs.
Not often does a co-star of Schwarzenegger steal the show, but that is very much the case in Aftermath. Jake’s character development is well presented and acted at the same time, whereas Roman’s character isn’t as developed to justify actions. Perfecting the “ugly cry” during his opening chapter, McNairy is terrific in portraying a character plagued by his actions, feeling useless and lifeless at times. McNairy as Jake makes for Aftermath an interesting film.
It would be foolish to suggest that Aftermath is an exciting movie, but instead, it is genuinely a deeply depressing piece of cinema. To watch one man lose his family, and then another man struggle to maintain his family, is not a pleasurable viewing. When a filmed is described as “based on true events”, and if said film isn’t a sporting achievement, then it is overwhelmingly likely that said film will be somewhat miserable or depressing. But also, the description of “based on true events” arms select viewers ready for post-screening battle to violently criticise the accuracy/inaccuracies, rather than evaluate the story-telling. The description of “based on true events” can almost kill, for some, a film being a piece of entertainment.
Ultimately, Aftermath is a good film, but sadly, it falls into the shameful category of “What could have been?” If only Aftermath‘s 90-minute duration was extended to, maybe, 2 hours…we could be describing Aftermath as one of the best smaller-scale dramas in recent years. For Schwarzenegger’s masses of fans, Aftermath is certainly worth the admission fee, though you should be sent to the cooler if you’re expecting classic Arnold…
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