Upon watching Aftermath I realised that I had never given a moment’s thought to the process that would happen if you went to pick someone up from the airport, and the plane they were on had been involved in an incident. I guess it’s not something most of us would think about but I have a habit of over-thinking odd things so surprised myself it hadn’t occurred to me.
Aftermath deals with that event and more. It’s loosely based on the real life Uberlingen mid-air collision that occurred on 1st July 2002. That was between a passenger jet and a DHL cargo jet, both of which came down in the southern German town of Uberlingen killing all 69 passengers on board the passenger jet and two crew on the DHL plane.
For the movie version events have been moved to America, of course, and two passenger jets which collide and come down in a snowy town. Arnold Schwarrzenegger takes on the role of a Ukrainian man whose wife and pregnant daughter are on one of the flights which crash. Scoot McNairy (12 Years A Slave, Argo) plays the air traffic controller whom Arnie blames for the crash.
McNairy is traumatised by the crash and ends up losing it a bit. The airline provides him a new name and a hefty severance package after they fear for his life once people begin pointing the finger. Arnie meanwhile, simply wants someone to apologise for killing his wife and daughter. Something the airline won’t do, they just offer him a whole bunch of cash and the opportunity to be a privilege member, as if someone is going to fly on the airline that’s killed their family??
As I mentioned previously, I tend to over-think things and wonder about stuff most people don’t bother with. One of the things I was wondering about was, do you think someone like Jackie Chan – a man who has been trying to shake-off his action status and take more serious roles for a few years now – gets annoyed when someone like Arnie seems to be able to do it so easily?
I mention this as I think both suffer from having accents when not speaking their native tongue, they are both former action mega-stars and both had their prime at similar sort of times. Yet Arnie seems to have these serious roles offered him, Chan, not so much. This is Arnie’s second foray into serious acting after 2015’s Maggie. As with that film there’s little dialogue in Aftermath, from him or anyone else.
The movie is filled with long, lingering shots and some imagery of a plane wing breaking up. I think this is all supposed to have you feel what it’s like for our protagonists, the loss, the emptiness. However, it only succeeded in me thinking that there wasn’t really enough of a story here for even an hour and a half movie. This would sit with the previous four dramatizations or telling’s of this story that have already proceeded Aftermath, mostly documentaries.
Despite Arnie’s best attempts he still comes off as a scary man, you expect him, any second, to completely lose his sh*t and start blasting people away. Even the scene where he’s wearing a leather jacket and descending an escalator makes me think of The Terminator. As for McNairy he is good in the role but the problem is, Aftermath is more style over substance.
Whether this is writer Javier Gullon’s (Graffiti (Short), Out Of The Dark) script or director Elliot Lester’s (Chop Shop (TV), Blitz) camera pointing, I’m not sure. I would, after seeing Gullon’s Graffiti, guess it’s a bit of both. They favour these long, lingering shots over giving the actors time to get into flow. The scenes feel brief and rushed or edited down, as if no-one really had faith that they could linger on a character, so they shot a tree instead.
Aftermath is an interesting point of view to look at for this sort of tragedy. I have no idea why so much was changed from the actual story though. Why is Arnie Ukrainian not Russian as Vitaly Kaloyev is? Why is it American not Swiss airspace that’s responsible, why, why, why? Are they really trying to make a political statement with a movie about a tragedy? I’m cynical but even I have a hard time thinking that.