Matthew McConaughey. Mark Wahlberg. Even Sylvester Stallone. Arnold Schwarzenegger is not one of these people. And that’s an actor who we thought couldn’t act but actually most definitely can. He can’t. Not even a bit. If you think that’s sensationalist, we implore… nay, demand you sit through 90 minutes of Arnie trying to show some remanence of grief in his new Film Aftermath.
Inspired by a true story from 2002 when a Russian passenger plane collided with a cargo plane over German, Aftermath follows Roman Melnyk (Schwarzenegger) as he tries to recover from the loss of his wife and daughter, two of the seventy-one who were killed in the accident.
As Roman struggles to cope with the tragedy, Jake, played by Scoot McNairy (Argo, Monsters) also grapples with the guilt of being the air traffic controller on the fateful day, all the while trying to maintain as normal life as possible with his son and wife, played by Maggie Grace (Lost, Taken). The story builds to its conclusion 478 days later when Roman and Jake finally meet.
From the plot synopsis alone, alarm bells should be ringing. The character of Roman Melnyk naturally demands depth and nuance – clearly not the qualities you’d associate with Mr Universe. The problem isn’t only the role is too big for the new host of The Celebrity Apprentice either, it’s that the whole film is geared up for Conan to dazzle us with his tenderness – Aftermath has the Kindergarten Cop carrying flowers, making ‘Welcome Home’ banners, the lot. But no matter how much the character actors do their best to save the film, the tone has already been set – and quite honestly, you’re on edge hoping not to have to play along with the charade for another minute.
The really frustrating thing about a film like Aftermath is there is a genuinely interesting and potentially very watchable hour and a half in there. McNairy and Grace are both engaging, with McNairy especially offering something believable, demanding your empathy. And if the audience was given the time, you could very easily completely invest in their complicated love story. And make no mistake there is very much a story there to be told – one of grief, guilt, parenthood… plenty to get your teeth into.
You do get a glimpse of what the film could have been with a memorable scene in the control tower as the two planes collide – a clear indication that despite some clumsy pacing and a grating score, Elliott Lester is a more promising director than Aftermath suggests.
It should be made clear that while Commando is a problem – a big one in fact – in fairness he’s not helped by a lacking script: the dialogue is forced no matter how hard McNairy especially is working; the two plotlines aren’t interweaved with anything resembling grace; and the last 15 minutes of the film couldn’t be any more out of context if The Running Man had donned the camo gear and headed to the Val Verde jungle to fight off a dreadlocked alien.
Unfortunately, Aftermath doesn’t know what it wants to be other than a vehicle for Schwarzenegger to prove he can act. The simple truth is, he can’t. If there is a moral to Aftermath, it seems to be, ‘say sorry.’ If that’s the case, we expect an apology accompanied with a signed photo of Terminator Arnie in the post.
Our Rating: ★★
UK Release Date: 7th April 2017
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