Upon realizing they were remaking Flatliners with some of my favorite actors in it, I knew this was a feature I wanted to see on the big screen. The trippy part was going to check in with my Moviepass app Monday evening so I could purchase my ticket and seeing the original 1990 film poster starring back at me. For a moment I debated if my theater was showing the original feature. Truth be told, I would have been happy to see either one, but was happy to finally see the movie I saw part of the ending and beginning when trying to view Friend Request last week. My AMC theater was all sorts of confused, but I digress. Now those fleeting moments all make sense and I am not left wondering tidbits that gave me enough to be considered food for thought, but not enough to spoil too much. There are some tidbits considered to be spoilers in this review though. Readers be warned!
The opening sequence was rather intense, but did not dwell on the horrific moment in our lead character’s life. In fact the film quickly cuts to nine years later. Courtney (Ellen Page) is participating in rounds at a hospital and were audiences assume she is either a doctor or a medical student. Still hung up on her past, she begins to question a patient who flatlined earlier in the evening about the afterlife. Courtney is intrigued by the idea that there is more out there after we pass. Of course, anyone who has ever lost someone wants to believe in something. After all, we want to believe that we are reunited with our loved ones in death. The patient calls Courtney out on her past and audiences see her own research project begin forming the moment that Dr. Barry Wilson (Keifer Sutherland) foreshadows Courtney’s end game when insisting that all great doctors want to push boundaries and bring something new to the field.
As Wilson’s idea runs rampant within Courtney’s mind, we begin to wonder what her true end game is with this extra project of hers she has taken on around what sounds like various exams according to Sophia (Kiersey Clemons). After all, audiences are introduced to Sophia crying over textbooks in the library with a coffee sitting next to her. She clearly needs a break and this is where Courtney’s offer to help with her project comes into play. This is an offer she also makes to her fellow med student Jamie (James Norton), who misconstrues her offer for one of a sexual nature. Though the two are surprised to see one another they realize quickly that Courtney’s project is nothing either of them signed up for initially before diving into the deep in pool with her. We are warned by a fellow med student Ray (Diego Luna) that they are crossing a line that should not be crossed. But seeing as this is part horror film no one listens and that line is trampled over not once, but three more times once by those Courtney previously enlisted in her so-called study in addition to another med student, Marlo (Nina Dobrev).
At first the plot seems innocent enough. Audiences soon the discover dire consequences to flatlining through the hallucinations experienced by each of the characters that do go under. The hallucinations had the potential to all be cheap jump scares, but the film made them into something else entirely. Through these hallucinations I found myself wondering alongside Courtney what awaits is in the afterlife. In fact, there is one scene where Jamie and Courtney are talking, right after Jamie flatlines, Courtney questions where her relatives since that is the common belief once we pass. Jamie’s counterpoint is one I thought was rather thought provoking. Maybe we truly do not see those loved ones we are promised if it is not our time. Maybe we only get a glimpse into what could be and that feeling of peace that takes over. Unless we have sins of course. Then we get hallucinations such as riding in the elevator from hell that is nothing like Willy Wonka promised.
While we get to learn more about the various backstories of each character, there is one character we barely learn anything about by the end of the feature. And that left me pondering one question. Why did Ray refuse to flatline? I cannot help but think there was a secret his character was ultimately hiding. Maybe there was a sin committed while he was a firefighter, which he reveals to Marlo earlier in the film, and that is part of why he wants to save lives. I think part of the reason he is drawn to her, and does not think she is a horrible person is because maybe on some level he experienced the same sort of guilt as she did. An unintentional death. Granted, this is all speculation, but there is a part of me that wished his character would have been developed more. Maybe he had experienced this prior. This would have been a slight twist I personally would have enjoyed. Plus, that would have left room for a sequel in the long run.
It is important to realize that with the exception of about ten or twenty minutes could have been cut, this reboot has me wanting to go back and watch the original. I think by expanding on the hallucination scenes the director could have drove home the real threat buried within the film. I also cannot help to want to yell at these characters, whose beliefs are based in scientific evidence and rationale, that they did talk to one another when all this started taking place. After all, they literally only have themselves to talk to about what each character is experiencing!
Ultimately, I think they did hit their goal of making me want to watch the original feature. To me that is important. And while I personally enjoyed the film, I cannot say I would recommend most people seeing this one in theaters. Unless that ticket comes at a discounted price or someone else is willing to purchase your ticket. After all, some lines should not be crossed until they reach Netflix or Redbox.