Features: Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin “to the ‘nth degree!” Bacon, and William Baldwin
I’ve never been a huge fan of director Joel Schumacher’s films, but I’m not one of those who slams the fella for either his overly slick visual style, which is so easily marketed by the studios, nor his homosexuality (casually linked and often attacked by those that don’t like his films… see comments via the web for that cinematic debacle known as Batman & Robin bunch, a director of note. Those so-called “… nipples on the Batsuit notwithstanding, the Batman/Boy Wonder partnership was always kinda gay to begin with). The guy is, and mostly always has been, an entertainer at heart… first as a costume designer, then as a screenwriter and finally as the director of a number of well-known films such as the string of 80’s “Bratpack” films that saw big ticket sales theatrically and, later, ongoing video popularity. Those films, St. Elmo’s Fire, The Lost Boys and Flatliners, all have a common interest in keeping that primary demographic the studios are always after (still, to this day!) happy: teenage boys (and the gals too). Lost Boys was probably the pinnacle of these films, and with Flatliners Schumacher seems to have gone out of his way to mimic many of the same visual and narrative tropes that made that film so successful. However, the main story for the film is not only medically implausible for the most part, but with the look and feel of a highly charged Goth music video (when it’s not ripping off important plot points and visual devices from Nicholas Roeg’s brilliant 1973 film Don’t Look Now, which starred Keifer’s father Donald Sutherland) it’s also, at times, laughably campy.
When a group of medical students, led by a determined, student named Nelson (Sutherland, first among the other strong performances), seek to find ways to beat back clinical death (when the heart stops circulating blood) and possibly brain death while finding out what’s on the other side. They do this by “flatlining,” putting their bodies in a low-temp environment and shutting down their heart and brain functions for a short duration. As they play God, beat death and flatline only to return through resuscitation, they’ve all experience the utter rush of the afterlife… or whatever passes for it in the cinematic realm of trippy/scary imagery. Once they return to life however, they begin finding that aspects of their time in the limbo of the afterlife are coming back to haunt them (kinda like the aftertaste of diet soda)… until they can make amends for their sins of the past. Love it or hate it, the film is still pretty effective for what it is… but it’s hardly a classic, and more of an effective way to waste an afternoon being simply entertained.
The Blu-ray release has NO special features! What a bummer! Not even a reunion of the cast for s#$%!s n’ giggles?!? Sony, you blew this one… BUT, the Blu-ray disc offers an excellent 1080p (MPEG-2 transfer) image in the original widescreen 2.35 ratio. The picture is clear, wonderfully detailed with excellent black levels that are retained throughout, nice color saturation without bleed and no edging or artifacts to mar the pleasure of what’s on the hi-def screen.
Likewise, the uncompressed PCM 5.1 (4.6 mbps) surround track is awesome… very nicely handling the mix of dialog, score and ambient tones on the center, front and rear channels. There’s also a standard DD 5.1 (640 kpbs) surround mix in English, French and German. Subtitles are from the League of Nations: English, Bulgarian, French, Spanish, Korean, Chinese, Thai, Swedish, Dutch, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Norwegian, Romanian, Slovene, Arabic, Turkish and Croatian subtitles are offered.