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Flatliners (1990)

Directed by Joel Schumacher Written by Peter Filardi

   Writer Filardi had gotten the idea for this script after hearing of a friends near death experience on the operating table. And who hasn’t been curious of the finer details of the afterlife? The story revolves around a group of friends attending medical school. First taking notice to Nelson (Kiefer Sutherland) as we’re then averted to a panicky David, (Kevin Bacon) who speaks of dire need in performing a surgery that would be risking more than the patients life; a mere student himself. Randy Steckle, (Oliver Platt) taking his coffee with a bit of narcissism as he spoke into a tape recorder of the possibilities of making his name appear in a better light for future documentation. Meanwhile a patient (Beth Grant) speaks on her near death encounter with Dr. Rachel Mannus (Julia Roberts) who consoles her along with several other patients who had experienced similar situations.

   Feeding into his friend’s ego Nelson encourages a questionable Steckle for an event happening later in the evening stating, “Since when did truth and knowledge become a horror, especially to a scientist and a genius such as yourself?” Dr. Joe Hurley (William Baldwin) uses his good looks and charm to lock onto an uninterested Rachel. Who also seems to affirm a certain hesitation of the event planned solely by Nelson hands. Hearing word of David’s incident earlier which he received a 4 month suspension, Nelson catches him attempting to jump ship when explaining his inability to no longer assist with the events to come. Which dealt with Nelson wanting to cheat death and learn of what was on the other side, recruiting fellow student Doctors.

   A pretty weak sex session involving Hurley thrusts into everything finally coming together. The students meet in as much discretion that can be obtained while sneaking around the campus later that night. Explaining the process and starting out with one less than desired, he further goes on with what he wanted to achieve from this experiment. Success, a wanting of physical science being able to prove what religion and philosophy had formally failed to. The process begins with Rachel and a better late than never David entering to state he had nothing left to lose anyway. Floating above a field turning into a un-living nightmare, his partners rush to bring Nelson back, able to regain a pulse once again. Celebrating a victory in their eyes the 5 venture off as he attempts to explain the events of his newly found senses, unable to describe what he just endured. Speckle accusing Rachel and Hurley of being so tragically competitive that they would dare fight for who would be able to go next. Only to see who would offer to stay under the longest.

  Unaware of the effects being brought back would have, Nelson begins seeing visions and tries explaining them to David. Brushing it off to simply needing rest and Rachel staying the night to ensure his recovery. Having volunteered to experience the ordeal next, Hurley reaches out to his wife for just in case purposes. His habit of filming his campus sexcapades being what haunted his mind as we take a brief glimpse at his afterlife. Almost lost if not for prying Nelson away from the table so as to let David do what he did best and bring yet another friend back from the grave.

   A constant battle of fighting to go under next, Rachel becomes frustrated as David offers a time of 2:20. Removing herself from the situation stating a personal interest in the matter was what drove her to the exercise. Nelson chases ghosts while Steckle is seen periodically documenting his thoughts on the entire process conflicted as to whether they truly are on the brink of something or just all cracked in the head. Hurley begins using his experience as yet another means to pick up woman with visions occurring frequently and Halloween dawning. Of which it’s then David’s turn, acting as their constant, being the only atheist in the group. Nelson showing an obvious contempt for bringing him back in a timely manner having noticed the connection between Rachel and he. Entrusting their medically gifted hands further as each person went under.

   The others in the group try and insist how unnecessary it was for Rachel to go under. Her further reasoning being that she had lost so many people in her life. She just wanted to know they had gone to a better place. Trusting her life in Nelson’s hands with David late, yet again, claiming to bring her back at once. Though a power outage occurs and their forced to perform CPR and provide o2, able to bring her back. The next couple of days are spent discussing the vivid hallucinations they had each been having. The possibility of their past sins coming back at them being a sure enough explanation. Haunted by his past indiscretions, Hurley arrives home to find his wife having been in his apartment long enough to find his stash of tapes.

  As a means of writing a wrong, David obtains information on the little girl haunting him and Nelson decides to tag along with for the ride. Helpless against his own past when waiting in the car and finds his ghost getting a hold of him. Simply a mirage, that had pinned her down nevertheless. Averting to atonement as the only solution, Nelson takes Hurley and Steckle to his old neighborhood and leads them to a graveyard. Where we find it had been him who caused the death of the boy haunting him. Claiming to know what had to be done in order to make amends, racing off in the car and leaving the two behind. Leaving Rachel who was finally alone to confront the day her father had killed himself. Discovering he had been a junkie, she goes to him in the bathroom and he asks for forgiveness; able to finally put that day behind her. Receiving a call from Nelson who asks for her help in going under. Pushing his time further as he’s out for almost 10 minutes. Needing to stay under so as to experience first hand what he had done and take responsibility.

 Final Thoughts: Who better to play the role of the tormented villain than Sutherland? His struggle between vanity and the need to clear his conscious made for an ever tense moment once we’re brought to the end and see him in the afterlife. Beginning and ending the film with Nelson’s character was the only viable option I saw feasible. My only issue with the ending being that you would think at almost 10 minutes, there would be no chance of him coming back. But if Nikki Six can die twice and live to see another day, perhaps too much thought has been put into it. The cast was full of young talented Actors in their prime with an over abundance of sexiness going on, Roberts included. While there was a certain hint of favoritism at times, each Actor was able to bring a different element to round out the cast. Platt’s quips, Robert’s stunning beauty, Baldwin’s sex appeal and Bacon’s intelligence, common sense and alright sex appeal once again. A definite blast from the past with this film yet just as great as when first viewed.