Directed by: Eliot Lester
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger. Scoot McNairey, Maggie Grace
Two men find their lives intertwined in the aftermath of a terrible air collision between two passenger jets. Roman Melnyk, a construction site manager, suffers the loss of his wife and pregnant daughter in the accident, while Jake Bonaos was the air traffic controller on duty at the time.. While Jake is absolved of any negligence in the incident, he is still hounded by media and the public and is forced to go into hiding. Roman, meanwhile, is desperate for closure and someone to blame.
The Arnold Schwarzenegger who has returned to acting following his years as a politician is a much different kind of actor to the one we knew before. The roles he's taken since his return take centre stage in much smaller-scale productions than before and the roles themselves are designed to stretch Arnold as an actor. As with Maggie, this film relies on Arnold being able to deliver a very vulnerable, emotional performance, and the big guy delivers, big time.
The film opens with a ten minute segment with Roman, showing us he's good at his job and well-liked. We see him go home and get changed (a very candid shower scene) before heading to the airport, where he discovers his family's flight has been delayed. We then go through this excruciating sequence where Roman is led away, to be told privately what has happened. This is a masterful scene, building up a sense of unease through great sound design (we can hear through the thin walls other people having the news broken to them and the ensuing outpouring of grief).
The film then cuts to Jake, the airtraffic controller. Lets be clear that there are no badguys in this film, just victims of circumstance. Whilst Jake was on duty in the control room at the time of the accident, we are shown how a unique set of events led to Jake missing the second plane announcing it was descending. It was a horrendous accident but to hold Jake accountable would be very wrong indeed.
But of course Roman doesn't know that. The air traffic control inquest papers over everything and Jake moves cities to distance himself from the public hatred. He is victimised for what happened but he is forbidden from talking about it. This and the fact he's gone into hiding just makes him look even more guilty in the eyes of the victims families, especially Roman, who eventually manages to track him down and confront him.
Aftermath just about manages not to wallow in its own misery, and this is mostly down to the central performance of Arnold. Even when emotionally broken (such as when he helps the search party recover the wreckage and bodies), his is a command performance. Where the film fumbles is unfortunately the moment the film has been building to - the eventual confrontation between Roman and Jake. However the film recovers by revealing that scene's own aftermath.
A quick look at IMDB shows that Arnold hasn't completely given up on the action (or the comedy), but with Aftermath Schwarzenegger is showing that he can act with the best of them.
7 out of 10 (MikeOutWest)