Saturday, April 8, 2017

REVIEW: "The Discovery" is non-sappy romantic science fiction

The Discovery Review
I have never identified with a particular religion. I have always been a very spiritual person. I don't bag anybody for their religious beliefs and I hope, my audience, will lend me the same courtesy. Religion, like politics, is a tough subject to just discuss randomly with people, especially with strangers you are unsure about. With that said, I think most people are on the same boat when we discuss whether or not there is an afterlife. Do we just merely cease to exist after this time is over? Or is there another life after this one is done here? These are questions that have perplexed me for my entire life. I have often wondered if there is something after all of this.

"The Discovery" tells the story of a man that finds hardened proof that there is an afterlife. This discovery has led to several moments of acclaim, it has also led to several suicides. Many people desperate to get to the next life. The man, Thomas Harbor (Robert Redford), does not feel responsible for the high suicide rate following his discoveries. He says so in an interview a few years after his findings, right at the end of the interview, a member of the crew shoots themselves in the head. Harbor just sits, not phased. 

Thomas' son Will (Jason Siegel) goes to visit his father at his compound where he creates a machine to see the afterlife. On a ferry to the compound he meets Isla (Rooney Mara). Will swears he's seen her before, he just doesn't know from where. They have a discussion about the ethics of suicide due to the emergence of an afterlife. Soon after, Will finds Isla trying to drown herself on a beach, and Will reluctantly rescues her. Together, they stay at his father's compound, trying to find out if his father's discoveries are truly genuine or if there is a flaw in the system.

That's the big mystery of the movie, is the afterlife real or not? Its the big mystery of life too, every religion has their own theories about suicide. I know growing up in the Catholic church, suicide was greatly frowned upon. The idea of suicide was murder, so if you killed yourself, you were never getting into Heaven. Would something like that change if we had hardened proof that we WERE going somewhere after we died? What would that somewhere be though? Some place good or some place evil? Is there honestly any proof of it at all? Its a juicy premise for a movie, and writer/director Charlie McDowell tries to get the most out of his subject. It plays fairly well for most of its running time and sets up a scenario that feels original.

Siegel and Mara are both very good in this, I can't believe Siegel can actually act well when he's not trying to be funny. But its true, he gives a pure dramatic performance here. Robert Redford, as always, is absolutely incredible. He can take some of the more ridiculous moments in the movie and make them work on the screen. He has near perfect dramatic timing. Jesse Plemens, Mary Steenburgen and Riley Keough all give good supporting work here.

The only thing that stinks, that nearly kills the entire movie for me, is the "emotional sledgehammer" at the end of the movie. Its the "big reveal." At least, this movie pretends its a big reveal. Its sad, because this reveal is something we've seen hundreds of times in the past. You can probably guess where this movie is going to go after the first hour. I think how the movie gets from point A to point B is vaguely original, which saves this movie from being a complete trainwreck. But I was just a tad disappointed that a movie which started on such a strong footing ended in something I had seen too many times before. The ride there is great enough to recommend, I just wish its ending was just as ambitious as its beginning.


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