Flatliners – movie review

Flatliners is a 25 year old movie that is notable for the fact that it features a group of young actors that all went on to become major stars. The young actors are Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon and Billy Baldwin.

They are medical students in New York City, who become obsessed for the search for life after death.  With modern medicine there have been a number of patients who have been revived after being “clinically dead” for several minutes on an operating table. Many of these people report out-of body experiences where they temporarily glimpse Heaven or even God.

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The students want to test this for themselves. They set up an operating table in a secret location and they they each take turns at being “killed” and then revived. They do this by using drugs to stop the heart and then after being “dead” for several minutes using a defibrillator to start the heart again.  They each take turn over a series of nights, and see amazing visions while “dead”.

However, that is only the beginning of the story. They each begin to have horrible visions. The visions are twisted and evil versions of the wonderful things they saw while dead.  Are these visions hallucinations that are the result of brain damage from the procedure? Or have actual evil entities followed back from the dead? We will not ruin the ending of the movie, but it is exciting and unexpected.

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The plot of this movie is great and the the acting is terrific. You can see that each of these actors was already a major talent 25 years ago.

However, the big problem with this movie is the cinematography. Director Joel Schumacher is known for using bizarre lighting techniques and Flatliners is no exception.

For some reason, he chose to shoot most of the scenes in almost compete darkness. It makes Godfather II look like it is brightly lit.

The lack of light in the movie is so extreme that it actually distracts from the film. In many scenes it is almost impossible to see what is going on. We can understand  using low lights in some of the scary situations, but in some parts of the movie it makes no sense.

For example, when the medical students are in a dissection class, there is so little light that you can hardly see the operating table. In real life, an operating room is the most brightly light part of the hospital; precisely so that the surgeons can see what they are doing.

However, despite the distracting lighting, this classic film is still worth taking a look at. It has great actors working with a great script.

We give this movie Four Stars ****

 

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