UK Release Date: 29th September 2017
Runtime: 110 minutes
Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Writer: Ben Ripley
Starring: Ellen Page, Diego Luna, Nina Dobrev, Kiersey Clemons, James Norton, Kiefer Sutherland
Synopsis: A group of medical students decide to embark on an experiment to see what it’s like to briefly experience death, but soon find themselves plagued by bizarre visions of their past.
Had anyone thought for even a single, solitary moment about the possibility of a Flatliners remake until this came about? Shlockmaster Joel Schumacher’s 1990 film, which featured Kiefer Sutherland and Kevin Bacon in early roles, is relatively well-loved by fans of thriller camp. This sequel, from Girl with the Dragon Tattoo director Niels Arden Oplev, is not well-acquainted with camp. In fact, it’s a completely po-faced and serious take on the material that seems to have no idea what it was that made the original film fun.
Medical student Courtney (Ellen Page) becomes fascinated with the idea of the afterlife and what happens after death. She recruits friends Sophia (Kiersey Clemons) and Marlo (Nina Dobrev), as well as lecherous classmate Jamie (James Norton), to help her with an experiment. She asks her colleagues to stop her heart before reviving her a few minutes later, so she can get a glimpse of what happens immediately after the moment of death. When Courtney experiences euphoric personality changes, the others decide they want to “flatline” too, despite the warnings of more experienced friend Ray (Diego Luna).
The saddest thing about Flatliners is not that it’s an irredeemably awful film – because it isn’t. The problem is that it’s entirely lacking in creativity, imagination, ambition and excitement. It’s a grey, soulless film set in grey, soulless locations populated by grey, soulless characters. Oplev occasionally brings the film flickering into life with a handful of effective horror sequences but, for the most part, there’s nothing here to quicken the pulse at all. There might be a few people flatlining in the audience too by the time the credits roll.
On the positive side of things, Ellen Page makes a decent fist of the lead role. She brings a reasonable charisma to proceedings early on and is believable as an inquisitive med student with an eye on underground scientific advances. Unfortunately, the script of Flatliners does not have enough behind it to match up to the intrigue of the performance and Page soon seems to lose interest. That’s more than can be said for the rest of the cast members, though, who simply never appear to be interested at all.
Oplev and Source Code screenwriter Ben Ripley make a series of bizarre choices during the course of the movie. Chief among these issues is the decision to cast Kiefer Sutherland, but not have him reprise his role from the original. The film feels as if it is crying out for a late in the day twist, in which Sutherland’s professor reveals his history with flatlining, but it never comes. Instead, the character feels like a missed opportunity in a film full of overlooked chances to create something fun and nostalgic.
Flatliners is a film that starts with reasonable flair, only to topple headlong off a cliff at the midpoint. A crucial, and actually rather surprising, plot twist sees the characters forced to negotiate real peril in a series of scenarios that, done with tongue a little further in cheek, could’ve channelled the absurd delights of the Final Destination movies. That level of enjoyable silliness, though, is entirely out of reach for Oplev, who wants to make a movie that asks philosophical questions, but forgets that you need the thrills in order to make the message worth watching.
Pop or Poop?
The jokes about this one write themselves. It’s a film called Flatliners that reduces its audience to catatonic zombies in the face of its unrelenting boredom and genuinely mystifying lack of fun. A defibrillator shock to the heart might’ve at least livened up the evening a little.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.