dir Elliott Lester
scr Javier Gullon
prd Scott Franklin, Randall Emmett, Eric Watson, George Furla, Peter Dealbert, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Darren Aronofsky
with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Scoot McNairy, Maggie Grace, Judah Nelson, Glenn Morshower, Hannah Ware, Martin Donovan, Mo McRae, Larry Sullivan, Kevin Zegers, Christopher Darga, Chase Crawford
release US/UK 7.Apr.17
17/US 1h34
Confront your fears: Schwarzenegger and McNairy

mcnairy grace donovan
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Aftermath Inspired by a true story, this thoughtful drama gives Arnold Schwarzenegger one of his most emotional roles yet, which he plays with surprisingly understated emotion (see also 2015's Maggie). Where this goes isn't easy to watch due to its depiction of hard emotions and the actions fuelled by them. And even if the message is mixed, it may say something to people who don't know what to do with their grief.

In Columbus, construction foreman Roman (Schwarzenegger) is preparing for the arrival of his wife and pregnant daughter for Christmas. But their plane goes down in a catastrophic mid-air collision due a combination of factors surrounding overstretched air-traffic controller Jacob (McNairy). Desperate to do something, the grief-stricken Roman joins the team searching the wreckage. Meanwhile, the guilt-ridden Jacob is being publicly blamed for the incident, which strains his relationship with his wife Christina (Grace) and young son Samuel (Nelson). Clearly, these two men are on their own collision course.

The film's cheerful opening is short-lived, shifting quickly into very bleak emotions. There's an overwhelming sense of pain infusing everything that follows, as Roman struggles to regain his equilibrium and Jacob experiences both debilitating self-hatred and a real fear of vigilante reprisals. A year later, Roman is still grappling with his new reality, while Jacob has started a new life with a new name. With the help of a journalist (Ware), Roman tracks Jacob down, and the film's tone changes again.

Schwarzenegger isn't a very subtle actor, but he plays this role with effective restraint. Roman isn't repressing his feelings, but he's trying to control them. He doesn't want a cash settlement; he wants an apology. Meanwhile, McNairy has a more emotionally open-handed role as Jacob, seeking any solution to the torment both in his head and around him. It's a grim role, and McNairy infuses Jacob with raw humanity. And Grace is refreshingly realistic has Jacob's equally haunted wife.

The emotional weight is wrenching, and the moodiness is somewhat oppressive, especially in moments that add some tension about what might happen next. These are people who simply don't know what they're capable of doing next, so there are times when the film feels like it's about to spiral into pitch-black horror. It's far too downbeat, and the point is fuzzy, but at least it gets us thinking. And for those interested in Schwarzenegger's surprising career trajectory, it's worth a look.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 4.Apr.17

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