Flatliners , a critical analysis

Flatliners (1990) was directed by Joel Schumacher and starred Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon and William Baldwin. I first watched the movie back in the 90’s as a young teenager and I wanted to revisit it and see if it was as I remembered it.

The plot is essentially , group of young 20 something brat packer Medical students decide to push the boundaries of life and death and dice with the afterlife. Led by Nelson (Sutherland) the team carry out increasingly risky “killings” in order to find the answer to the ultimate question, just what happens after we die?

The cinematics are quintessentially 90’s , lots of soft focus lighting, dry ice machines and wind machines. At times it feels like a feature length soft rock video. Then there is the group of so called medical students, all filling a stereotypical role. We have the Kevin Bacons rebellious but brilliant student, Kiefer Sutherlands Nelson, slightly deranged character pushing the group along. Then there is William Baldwin’s Dr. Hurley, the gorgeous and arrogant one. Not to mention the token girl, Julia Robert’s plays Dr. Rachel Mannus, caring and compassionate with a guilty secret. Trying to be the voice of reason in all of this is Oliver Platt’s ,Randy Steckle, loudly voicing his concerns, yet still going along with the experiment.  Carrying out their studies as student Dr’s yet looking impossibly preened and manicured. No caffeine or slightly more dubious stimulant overdoses needed for this group of overworked, sleep deprived med students.

Some of the highlights for me were the scene in which Kevin Bacon’s character finds himself on the train and is suddenly confronted by a young girl whom he taunted whilst at school. The young actress that plays the young Winnie gives a convincing performance , turning the tables on her once tormentor.

220px-FlatlinersWhilst I enjoyed the movie, I felt that it did not explore its potential with enough conviction. Whilst it had moments of suspense I felt that it could have explored its potential to be a thriller that made you sit up and pay attention. For me, its all about what you don’t see, that makes a movie scary. Yet the horror moments in this were far too obvious, nothing was left to the imagination, which is a shame, as if it had been it could have made for an on the edge of your seat viewing experience.

When the movie ended I didn’t feel like I had wasted a couple of hours of my life, yet I felt that Flatliners could have been so much more.



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