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Film Review: FLATLINERS Is Dead On Arrival

Courtesy of Sony Pictures


They're many smart characters making stupid decisions in "Flatliners" a reboot of the movie of the same name from the 1990s that starred Julia Roberts and Kiefer Sutherland. Needless to say, the concept, or premise, hasn't aged well. Like it's predecessor, this "updated" version stumbles upon a group of stressed, overworked medical students who pump adderall through their veins to keep them going.

One of the groups smarter cookies, Courtney (Ellen Page, looking sad and depressed in her first mainstream role after a brief hiatus), has a vision for an outlandish scientific experiment. She asks her fellow colleagues to assist her in "flatlining," a term the means to die and then come back to life. The reason for doing this, is so our team can record brain wavelengths and document what happens after your death. While they do gather some interesting data, they come back to life with a new perception of how they were living, like a drug that gives you the best high (and makes you eager for any kind of sexual activity.) They also start seeing hallucinations and lifelike projections of dark events from their past.  One of them even says "we may have opened a door." I'm not a doctor, but killing yourself and being brought back to life can't be good for your health and this extremely dangerous procedure has some heavy side effects. I constantly asked myself "why would anyone partake in such a thing"

Once each of them visits the other side, (the most they stay "under" is roughly three minutes,) the "live" ones resuscitate them and it's a miracle they always manage to bring these kids back to the real world.  One compliment I can give "Flatliners" is it's ability to stage a harrowing and demanding life saving sequence. for a minute I really thought one of them wasn't going to make it back. Of course, they do, and the movie forgoes any credibility and statistics to do so.

Once they're brought back to reality, is where this film struggles with it's own identity. Are we watching a horror thriller? A drama? Director Niels Arden Oplev doesn't have all the answers, and while he does enlists a good looking cast, their characters morals somehow never come to light; they each have skeletons in the closet, and they're only facing them because of flatlining. Not because they suddenly had a change in heart.

The only character with any sense is Ray (Diego Luna) the, down to earth, straight A student whose sole purpose in the film is to negate what everyone says. He's the only character that doesn't flatline. Other than that, most of these heartthrobs are one dimensional, with no traits worth caring about. They never grow, and that's the main problem with "Flatliners." I never felt like these characters learned anything from their mistakes. Because, if not for their willingness to plunge into a near death experience, I'm throughly convinced they'd be living life as if it never happened.

When the original "Flatliners" was released in the 90s, audiences were more open and willing to jump on board for such a ridiculous premise, and I would've been too. But if we need to buy into such a ludicrous idea, some part of me needs to think these characters understand the consequences of their actions, and when they finally do, it feels forced, not because they actually want to. It's for that reason - among many others - why "Flatliners" is dead on arrival. D+

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