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Aftermath, review - 'Schwarzenegger acts!' | reviews, news & interviews

Aftermath, review - 'Schwarzenegger acts!'

Aftermath, review - 'Schwarzenegger acts!'

Arnie acts his age in a quiet, convincing tragedy

An American tragedy: Roman (Arnold Schwarzenegger) mourns his family

Arnie acts! Like “Garbo laughs,” there are some things you learn never to expect, and a credible, committed Arnold Schwarzenegger playing a grief-stricken construction worker is high among them. His role as a melancholy father dealing with his daughter’s impending transformation into a murderous zombie in Maggie (2015) was the first indication of a new direction.

Aftermath confirms that Arnie the muscle-bound king of the action one-liners may not be back.

Schwarzenegger plays Roman, an amiable, lumbering Ukrainian-American, living his quiet version of the American Dream. Well-liked at work, he lives in a modest suburban street, where he awaits the Christmas return of his wife and pregnant daughter. Like the switch Bruce Willis made in The Sixth Sense, this is Schwarzenegger stripped of his crowd-pleasing tricks. Aged 68 during filming, time has also robbed him of invulnerability. As he scrubs his slightly sagging, lumpy body in an early shower scene, the former Mr. Universe rejoins the human race.AftermathBritish director Elliott Lester’s film goes against the grain in more than its casting. It’s inspired by an infamous tragedy in which two planes collided in mid-air, and a victim’s father sought vengeance on an air-traffic controller he deemed responsible. Even before Aftermath’s accident, director of photography Pieter Vermeer (a Dutch descendent of the painter) films from subtly odd angles, suggesting a world that’s ominously out of whack. Natural winter light makes the Ohio setting muted and bleached, while Mark Todd’s score sketches strings-like synth washes. Lester has composed a quiet, sometimes near-silent canvas for his naturalistic drama.

At heart, Aftermath is a two-hander about a catastrophic circumstance, and the stopped lives which result. Air-traffic controller Jake (indie everyman Scoot McNairy) is the other side of this bleak equation. Happily married to Christine (Maggie Grace, pictured below with McNairy) with a young son, when he’s left alone at work one night, calmly sipping coffee as a sequence of ordinary events kills 271 in the sky above, his own life is irreparably scarred. A minute of minor distraction, and the carnage it caused, cannot be retrieved.AftermathWhen Roman discovers his family died in the collision, he is gently polite, then helpless with bottled anger as he walks through the empty airport where they’ll never arrive. Losing his family was a standard, gunplay-excusing ploy in many previous Arnie films. The scene where this old man drives to the rural crash-site, to find his daughter amid the corpses sitting flopped back in the debris in a snowy wood, is very different. Later, sitting lost on his stoop, Roman looks raw-skinned.

Meanwhile, Jake gets an assumed identity, attempting brittle humour and normalcy with his visiting family. McNairy suggests a man who, like the foreign-accented, unmistakable Roman, never wholly fitted, and is now outside society: a pariah who can’t be put back together. The two men’s impending collision has tragedy’s classical shape.

Aftermath has its issues. Though its minor characters are mainly well-drawn, suggesting a real world around its protagonists, the airline’s lawyers are too blatantly villainous, and Lester can be understated to a fault. But when his soft simmer eventually boils over, Schwarzenegger is still Roman, suffering and immersed.

As he scrubs his lumpy body in a shower scene, the former Mr Universe rejoins the human race


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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