It’s hard to be an explorer now, as the great frontiers have been reduced. The deepest seas explored by unmanned drones, hidden regions of the Earth charted by satellites and drones, space endlessly probed and charted. There’s little left… Apart from the metaphysical. In 1990, a film by Joel Schumacher pitied some familiar fresh faces, with the risks and rewards of charting the unknown that comes with the afterlife, In the medically themed, frontier themed Flatliners.
We follow a bunch of young ambitious medical students, each with dreams of being the best. When one of them, Nelson Wright, has a hypothesis about life after death, that involves him stopping his heart for up to 2 minutes, he needs the best and calls on them. They manage to achieve this task and Nelson experience visions during his coma, and when he is resuscitated. With the initial trip a success, the group tries to push further and further. Things turn sour as the euphoric dreams and memories of the afterlife haunt and harm them, leading them to confront the darkest aspects of themselves in a race to get them to stop, before they end up dead permanently.
Flatliners feels like a macabre heist film at the start especially with its introduction of the main players, in kind of vignette. As each member is introduced as recruited for the initial experiment. Quickly, the film becomes an ethical voyage as the philosophies of life after death is explored and prodded. As the experiment goes on, medical ethics are thrown carelessly in the wind, Along with a healthy dose of Karma and redemption. Providing a lot of food for thought for the impressive ensemble to chew on.
You’ve got a cast of well-known stars in the former half of their careers with a lot of then playing against type. Such as William Baldwin’s Joe being the voice of caution among the group, and Oliver Platt’s Randy Steckle. The film’s inventive visual depictions and effects help grab your attention, much like the film itself, those same visions and hauntingly effective soundtrack stayed with me long after watching Flatliners for the first time. While it never climbs to the surreal heights of contemporaries like Jacob’s Ladder, there’s still some impressive highs and dark lows in the twisted dreamscape our characters embark upon.
Flatliners is a stylish, fun, thriller with a nice medical shine, though it’s one of those films, where if you had heard the plot line, you feel like you do not need to buy the ticket. But by missing out on watching this film, you’re depriving yourself of a visual treat, with some strong performances and some moral quandaries to digest. While I’d argue it’s never a good day to die, if you’ve got a spare couple of hours, today might be a good day to see this film.
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