Running Time: 92 minutes
Written: Javier Gullón
Directed by: Elliott Lester
Featuring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Scoot McNairy, Maggie Grace and Martin Donovan.
Roman: “Look at this photo. I would like for someone to say that they’re sorry for killing my family.”
Lets face it the only reason to watch this movie is to see the continuing comeback of its star Arnold Schwarzenegger after his hiatus whilst serving as the Governor of California. It is true he did make the odd appearance in film during his time as Governor, but it was not until the release of “The Last Stand” (2013) that he announced he was back to being a full-time actor as well as a movie star, his former occupations. Since then he has made “Escape Plan” (2013), “Sabotage” (2014), “The Expendables 3” (2014), “Maggie” (2015) and of course “Terminator: Genisys” (2015), all to varying degrees of success. It would be an understatement to say that any of these movies have been that fantastic, in fact a couple have been bordering on terrible. I for one enjoyed “The Last Stand”, which I think may have gotten a raw deal when it was initially released, a shame as it fits into the Schwarzenegger oeuvre very nicely as well as any of his other past films.
The one thing that is great to see, however, is the ease in which Schwarzenegger is playing his age, in many of these movies he is grey and not hiding his bulk – it may be better for him to stop trying to play the lead in a movie, maybe he should to try to become a true character actor – he does have limited range so this may suit him, it could lead nicely to a third part of his career with which to have some real success. For now though we are stuck with movies like this months straight to DVD/Blu-ray drama “Aftermath” (2017) – a film Schwarzenegger would not have been caught dead in before his run for Governor.
The movie concerns everyman Roman Melnyk (Schwarzenegger ), who is a construction worker in New York – he is getting ready to welcome his family Nadiya and Olena from overseas. Roman receives the news that the plane, with his wife and daughter onboard, has crashed, they are both dead. From this point, Roman is devastated and blames the air traffic controller for the deaths of his family.
Meanwhile, in another angle of the story, Jacob “Jake” Bonanos (Scoot McNairy), an air traffic controller, is now also devastated, after seeing two planes disappear from the radar, showing that the two planes collided and were destroyed. Although the investigators cannot hold Jake responsible for the deaths of the passengers, he blames himself.
This film is many things but I wouldn’t say good or compelling are two of them, it seems like there may be something to it than first meets the eye, particularly with the cinematography, which looks interesting, as well as the word thriller which is used to describe it, in the marketing. This movie is not a thriller, it is for want of a better description a male melodrama that never really reaches the emotional depths it would like to. This may be because of the plodding performance of Schwarzenegger himself or the fact that no real depth is given to him or his counterpart in the piece, Scoot McNairy. It seems that we are supposed to feel sorry for Schwarzenegger simply because he lost his family, but the device that is used to keep him moribund is the fact that he wants an apology from someone – really, an apology, are we supposed to buy that? People process grief in different ways but here the main character goes on a self destructive tour where he spurns help from just about everyone – he never helped himself by talking to people close to him – this is a very un-American thing to do when you work in construction – a terrible trope – which may explain why the US in such trouble now, socially as well as politically. I will not give away the ending but the way he deals with his grief is deplorable, as is the ham fisted ending that offers no real reason for this story to exist in the first place.
I can see the appeal for Schwarzenegger in taking this role in a small drama where he might be able to play someone who loses his family (maybe he saw something in his life that was familiar) but this movie was a bad choice. It is a clumsy, non-sensical revenge film that makes light of his actual loss, as well as stereotyping men who are not highly educated, seeing them as brutes who know only one thing, violence through revenge, there is no apology for it, nor is their any price paid by him in his final act – in fact he has a reduced punishment because it seems the social contract sxays he was in the right.
The writer (Javier Gullón) and director (Elliott Lester) of this movie have been involved in mainly action films before so the nuance that is required to delicately balance the emotions that both main characters are meant to be feeling is lost here. The Schwarzenegger characters idea of loss is to aimlessly wander around his home as well as his old work site, sticking pictures of his family on a wall within his home, building fences (get it, he is building real ones as well as metaphorical ones) and drink. McNairy’s character on the other hand just wants medication, does the American thing of buying a gun, lets his own family walk out and oh yes, drinks heavily. The movie is filled with outdated as well as dangerously stereotypical male actions – something you would expect from people with a political leaning towards the right of center. I find this film an embarrassment, although while you are in it you might not notice how ludicrous some of the situations are, it os only afterward if you bother to reflect on it you will see this film is as big a fantasy as any Marvel or DC movie’s released this year.
There are endless plot holes within this movie, from the farcical work environment McNairy works in, to the way in which the plane crash occurs, to the Schwarzenegger being able to stay with his families bodies where they are being stored, to the reporter giving away information, to the fact that McNairy is even to blame – the list goes on and on. I don’t require realism from all aspects within a movie, but some semblance of reality would be great.
What this film says about masculinity as well as a father or husbands reaction to loss of life is frankly embarrassing not only to me but for the people behind this movie. During the movie my wife turned to me and said, “You wouldn’t do what the main character is doing if we were in the same situation?” I can honestly say I said no. Now there may be times when you feel like he does but you could not function if that was your life. It is sad to think this movie was even made, it almost seems likes it’s a reaction to forgiving people or to tune audiences up to this new America they have woken up to in the last year or so.
I cannot recommend highly enough to only watching this movie if you are a fan of dramas that have little to do with reality or if you are a huge fan of Arnold Schwarzenegger and want to see everything he appears in. To be honest the closest thing to this Schwarzenegger has done is the under rated “Maggie” (2015) which I would recommend for something that is different and more believable than this exercise in futility.
“Aftermath” Schwarzenegger is out now on DVD and Blu-ray.