Blu-ray Review: Aftermath (2017)

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A couple years ago Arnold Schwarzenegger starred in an indie drama, Maggie. The actor known for playing iconic, larger-than-life, action-hero monoliths had downsized, playing the concerned father of a child stricken with a virus that essential turns its victims into zombies. Critics lauded Schwarzenegger for attempting to boost his profile as a dramatic actor. Unfortunately the movie was a dour slog and, in truth, the screenplay didn't give Arnie much to work with.

Consider Maggie a warm-up act. Lionsgate Premiere's new Aftermath features Schwarzenegger at his most expressive. He plays Roman Melnik, a man whose life has been ripped apart by an airline tragedy. His pregnant wife and teen daughter are among the victims of a mid-air collision that claimed the lives of all passengers aboard the two planes involved. Schwarzenegger digs deep to show that behind Roman's steely resolve lurks a growing madness. The star has never been more introspective and vulnerable in his entire career.

Jake Bonanos (Scoot McNairy) was one of the air traffic controllers on duty when the planes collided. Though the accident was the result of a series of blunders, not the least of which being a second air traffic controller taking a coffee break at an inopportune time, someone needs to be held accountable. Jake quickly finds himself the center of an investigation, which leads to his estrangement from his own wife (Maggie Grace) and young son.

Aftermath is the story of how the lives of Roman and Jake intersect. The more Roman internalizes his grief, the more he focuses his anger on Jake. Remember, director Elliot Lester (Nightengale) has not crafted an action film here. Even calling Aftermath a thriller would be a considerable stretch. This is a quiet movie, and not without its problems. Be it Javier Gullón's screenplay or Lester's direction, somehow the movie becomes too slack in the middle. Particularly strange is Tessa (Hanna Ware), a reporter working on a book about the plane crash. This subplot, which does have an important (if confusingly handled) payoff, feels like the victim of overly aggressive editing.

It's important to note that Aftermath is based on the real-life Überlingen mid-air collision of 2002. This airline disaster resulted in 71 deaths when a Tupolev-Tu-154M collided with a Boeing 757 at an altitude of 34,890 feet above Überlingen, Germany. Schwarzenegger's Roman Melnik is loosely based on the real-life Vitaly Kaloyev. Kaloyev's wife and two children were among the victims of the tragedy. Foreknowledge of the real-life story will of course have an effect on your viewing experience of Aftermath. Suffice it to say that in both real life and the fictionalization, one tragedy gives way to yet another tragedy.

Lionsgate's Aftermath Blu-ray includes commentary by director Elliot Lester and producer Eric Watson and seven minutes of crew interviews.


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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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