Film Review: Flatliners

Five medical students, obsessed by what lies beyond the confines of life, embark on a daring experiment: by stopping their hearts for short periods, each triggers a near-death experience – giving them a firsthand account of the afterlife. The problem therein lies with the aftermath as each student is being haunted by their own past transgressions, almost as if they had taken something out of the afterlife back to the real world.

I think the biggest problem with Flatliners is that it is a huge waste of actual talent. The 2017 medical thriller (based on the film of the same name that boasted some top-notch talent like Julia Roberts and Kevin Bacon) features a pretty game cast and a story that could seemingly end up strong but it is handled so clumsily and in a tone-deaf manner that it never finds the right beat. Ellen Page and Diego Luna come out of this thing looking the best as both treat it like an honest-to-goodness movie and they treat every terrible line of dialogue with the gravitas of a better film.

There is lunacy a foot in this film. While it’s not even worth the time spent debunking all the (assumption here) awful “science” in the movie, that doesn’t even begin to explain the problems that lie in the screenplay alone. For instance, an early scene involving Ellen Page and Kiersey Clemons (who you may remember from Neighbors 2) starts out as complete strangers talking to each other in the first time in years to suddenly giving the audience complete descriptions of each other through dialogue. Oh, lovely exposition. The actual visions of the afterlife that we get are rather lame as well, just looking like filtered pictures you would find online rather than anything truly visually impressive. Also, does anyone truly believe that ANY of these medical students would ever actually be med students? Page is perhaps the most convincing but everyone else looks like models that just played doctor for an hour and a half. For God sakes, Diego Luna is 37 years old!

The film is also oddly paced. We just go from flatline sequence to the next followed by everyone getting their weird visions followed by the reactions and realization to how it’s all happening to them. It’s just handled in such a cookie-cutter fashion, it’s hard to care or feel any kind of suspense or terror as the whole film relies almost entirely on jump scares as well.

There is a major occurrence at about the halfway mark in the film that I’m sure would be more controversial if people had actually seen this movie. I was blown away by it but not in a good way and as one performer makes their exit from the film it got me thinking – was it always in the script or did they just walk off the set? Personally, I might have resorted to the latter.



Rating System:

Less than * (Actively offensive to one’s intelligence)

* (Brutal; bottom-of-the-barrel)

** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)

*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)

**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)

***** (Flawless; a true achievement)