Flatliners

 

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Five medical students experiment with the afterlife in this cosmopolitan reboot of the 1990 original.

 

Flatliners

Dying to learn: Ellen Page

 

Science has come a long way since the release of Joel Schumacher’s Flatliners in 1990. In that film, five medical students experimented with death by momentarily having their hearts stopped, thus enabling them a unique look into the afterlife. Of course, the brain still holds many secrets, but it’s hard to believe that the doctors in this reformation of the original really believe in the prospect of eternity. Does the human brain still retain the secret to an existence beyond the now?

 

For the remake, the Swedish director Niels Arden Oplev has accumulated a cosmopolitan cast. There’s the Canadian Ellen Page, the English James Norton (with a decent American accent), the Bulgarian Nina Dobrev, the African-American Kiersey Clemons and the Mexican Diego Luna. And there’s a good supporting turn from the Canadian Kiefer Sutherland as an exacting, grey-haired professor. It should be noted, though, that as the star of the first film, he is not recreating his old part here.

 

Besides the fact that these students are all surprisingly attractive, physically fit and preternaturally curious, each one of them also holds a terrible secret. It is the guilt buried deep in their psyche that, once they’ve passed over to the other side, is made manifest, returning to the present once they have been revived in a subterranean operating room beneath the hospital at which they work. The entity here, a malevolent force that plays deadly tricks with the students’ minds, is like the Grim Reaper depicted in the five Final Destination films. Death just doesn’t like to be cheated…

 

Niels Arden Oplev, who brought us the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is good at summoning up the scares, even when resorting to cliché. The very opening scene warns one of what is to come in that department. Still, as a common-or-garden horror film, this Flatliners is more interesting than most and is handsomely photographed by the Danish cinematographer Eric Kress. In addition, the screenwriter Ben Ripley (who wrote the premise for Duncan Jones’ Source Code) knows his stuff, giving Ellen Page’s Courtney Holmes some initially creditable dialogue. As the first guinea pig to ‘flatline’, Courtney is revived to find her brain re-booted, enabling her to recall obscure medical details and even to play the piano. Had the film followed this line – exploring the miraculous potential of the human brain (cf. Neil Burger’s Limitless) – we might have found ourselves with something scarily gripping.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Ellen Page, Diego Luna, Nina Dobrev, James Norton, Kiersey Clemons, Kiefer Sutherland, Anna Arden, Wendy Raquel Robinson.

 

Dir Niels Arden Oplev, Pro Laurence Mark, Michael Douglas and Peter Safran, Screenplay Ben Ripley, Ph Eric Kress, Pro Des Niels Sejer, Ed Tom Elkins, Music Nathan Barr, Costumes Jenny Gering.

 

Columbia Pictures/Further Films/Laurence Mark Productions/Cross Creek Pictures-Sony Pictures.

109 mins. USA. 2017. Rel: 29 September 2017. Cert. 15.