Aftermath (aka 478) review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
I’d like to root for Arnold Schwarzenegger venturing out of his comfort zone to trade up roles for a film where he has to show more emotion in his face than muscle in his arms. Aftermath would sound like the perfect project to flex those seldom seen acting muscles and showcase how his more dramatic side. It’s character driven, atmospheric, moody, and brooding with a sadness in everything from the events to the settings. It’s just too bad that the film drowns itself in so much forlorn dressing it can’t cover up its crash into a corner, never finding a proper direction to take this tale of loss.
It’s the story of two characters. Schwarzenegger is a recently retired foreman, eagerly awaiting the arrival of his wife, daughter and expectant granddaughter. Scoot McNairy plays an air traffic controller that makes an honest mistake that causes two planes to collide. You can probably guess who was on that plane. For the rest of the film, the two men find themselves struggling to live with themselves; Schwarzenegger over the loss of his family and McNairy over making such an error that forces him into hiding. All Schwarzenegger wants is for someone at the airline to apologize and not hide behind legal deals and compensation. All McNairy wants is to see his son who is being plucked away from his as his wife finds it best to distance herself from someone receiving death threats.
So far so good. But as the film prattles on with mental breakdowns and crippling loneliness between the two characters, it slowly dons that this story won’t find much of anywhere all that insightful or satisfying. This becomes apparent when Schwarzenegger finds little to do in his grievance besides seek out who made the error and give them a piece of his mind. And, no, it does not end well, resulting in a bloody showdown that feels like a disappointing cop-out for sliding Schwarzenegger right back into his familiar form of the lethal killing machine he has played before.
It’s more depressing that the film never delivers on a solid enough script as there are hints of some of Schwarzenegger’s best acting for such a quiet role. He surprisingly restrained in his distraught rage, his voice shaking as he shoves a photo of his wife and daughter in the face of lawyers seeking to buy him off. He even manages to avoid his more comical outburst mode he is known for in his comedies, removing the easy laughs of his serious attempt at acting. Scoot McNairy is also in good form as a weeping man whose life quickly crumbles to pieces. Small scenes of him working at a travel agency or eating dinner alone in his relocated apartment paint a somber picture of one man’s painful exile.
Aftermath has all the ingredients to be a great drama, but does little more than wallow in guilt before spiraling into an unfulfilling catharsis. I would almost recommend seeing the picture to witness that Schwarzenegger has a little something extra left in his aged bag of acting, digging out parts of himself that have rarely been on screen before. He just needs to find a better script so his twilight years don’t become the lackluster aftermath of his better days.