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Student Edge Movie Review: Ellen Page’s “Flatliners” Remake Dies on the Table
If you’re planning on watching Flatliners, dig two graves: One for the remake, and one for your time. by Simon Miraudo, published on September 28, 2017
Death is only the beginning… for exploitable intellectual property. Flatliners, the pseudoscientific ‘90s thriller so imprecise they made it twice, is back, in arterial clog form.
(Seriously, if you’re gonna make a movie called Flatliners, you better check it has a pulse, otherwise bored critics will just sit in the cinema thinking up puns to convey their petty complaints.)
The original starred Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts and the one Baldwin brother who didn’t wind up a public commentator on the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
This remake, directed by Niels Arden Oplev and written by Ben Ripley, follows the same basic thread, but changes the demographics of the cast. Now, Ellen Page plays the young doctor with a self-destructive flair for taking gigs beneath her talents stopping her own heart. She’s joined by eventual ‘flatliners’ Nina Dobrev, Kiersey Clemons and James Norton. Internet boyfriend Diego Luna is also there, to revive them after a few minutes of restful death, though he personally declines to kill himself. If you’d just graduated from Star Wars to the Flatliners remake, you wouldn’t want to tie a ribbon around your career just yet either.
The premise is silly—okay, stupid—yet, in theory, it opens a door to some perfectly spooky thrills. See, the doctors agree to “die” to see if there’s any brain activity after death, potentially proving the existence of an afterlife. When they’re pulled back to the land of the living, they find their brain function has improved, offering them advanced abilities in recall, instinct and, erm, home renovation. But soon, each becomes haunted by some dark secret from their past. Is it supernatural? Or is it just their synapses firing wildly, activating latent memories? The answer may not surprise or entertain you.
As far as legacies go, there’s not much in the Flatliners brand to tarnish, besides some spectacular hairdos. (Luna comes closest to honouring those who came before with his glorious man-bun.) Still, Oplev squanders his shot to tinker with the plot and pump some real blood into it, carrying over all the predecessor’s problems and spiritual schmaltz without offering a justification for its 2017 revival. He should know the power of a decent remake: He saw one happen from the other side, when David Fincher re-did his tedious Danish adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, to scintillating effect.
Cheap-looking and shoddy, Flatliners utterly fails to generate any scares over its 110 minutes, although it does inspire a pervasive sense of panic about Ellen Page’s career. She is far and away the most captivating element of this unnecessary flick; a fact the feature even seems to forget about halfway through. The rest of the cast labours under Ripley’s script and Oplev’s flat direction. Clemons at least has a natural ease on screen. If Flatliners pays for another season of Page’s Viceland show Gaycation, maybe it will all have been worth it. But can we start giving her vehicles that are deserving of her skills, please?
In a way, it makes a lot of sense that a picture about doctors with a cavalier attitude towards humankind’s impermanence would be at the center of a movie that wantonly wastes two precious hours of our lives. These renegade filmmakers will stop at nothing to experiment with the boundaries of mortality.
In cinemas now. Rated M for mature themes, violence, sex scene and coarse language.