Flatliners – movie review

Death becomes her. That’s a rather facetious reference to what kicks off the key character’s journey in this dramatic sci-fi horror – a re-imagining of the 1990 film of the same name.

Five medical students are obsessed by the mystery of what lies beyond the confines of life. They decide to undertake a daring and dangerous experiment. By stopping their hearts for short periods, each triggers a near-death experience – giving them a taste of the afterlife.

Flatliners begins with one medico in training – who has her own carefully guarded motivations – convincing her colleagues to embark on this treacherous journey with her. What could convince anyone to try something so dangerous? What else, but the promise of groundbreaking – and fame-making – results. For the initial burst of energy and seeming supercharging of their brains, those that experiment are each confronted by the sins of their pasts, brought on by the paranormal consequences of trespassing to the other side.

“We all want to know what happens when we die, but some things are clearly best left unknown,” says Laurence Mark, one of Flatliners producers. Director Niels Arden Oplev (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) says the students are trying to shortcut themselves to greatness, but there is a high price to be paid for doing that.

From recollection, because it has been 27 years since I saw the original, the storyline is very similar … and, I should say, it remains – in large part – just as intriguing. The five characters each have distinct personalities and we find out more about the four who actually try “flatlining” – that is, those who kill themselves for the so-called benefits it will bring them once they are revived – over time.

Naturally, though, it is the negatives – like the apparitions that start appearing – that become all consuming.

The filmmakers have cast a decent posse of young talent to fill the key roles and we – the audience – build an affinity with them. Ellen Page is foremost amongst them. She is a top-notch actor who, unfortunately, we don’t get to see enough of. I wish she’d be cast in more films. It is good to see Kiefer Sutherland, who was one of the stars of Flatliners circa 1990, back in a different guise – this time as the instructing doctor constantly challenging the students.

Curiosity, enterprise and endeavor are all part of the mix here. The amount of time spent highlighting the traumas could, perhaps, have been pared back a tad, but otherwise the new Flatliners has solid entertainment value. Written by Ben Ripley (Source Code) from a story by Peter Filardi (the original Flatliners) and rated M, it scores a 6½ to 7 out of 10.

Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Cast: Nina Dobrev, James Norton, Ellen Page
Release Date: 28 September 2017
Rating: M

Alex First

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