Director - Elliot Lester
Cast - Arnold Schwarzenegger, Scoot McNairy, Maggie Grace
Rating - 3/5
For a film in which Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character loses his entire family in a tragic plane crash, it chooses to open with a dig at Donald Trump.
It’s the only moment of levity in a surprisingly and relentlessly sombre film about grief and the cyclical nature of revenge.
Aftermath, another film in this new, more dramatic phase of Arnold’s career, is based on the infamous Überlingen mid-air collision of 2002, and the wake of destruction it left behind. In many ways – most of all its devastating resolution – the best way to approach it would be to watch it without any knowledge of the real life events.
Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Roman, an immigrant who works a regular blue-collar job, loves his wife, and is excited about becoming a grandfather for the first time.When the film opens, he is on his way to receiving them at the airport. They would never arrive. Roman is taken to an antiseptic-looking room, and told that their plane was involved in a mid-air collision, and that it is rare, in such accidents, for there to be any survivors. It is the first of many moments in which Arnold displays considerable restraint in his performance, probably surprising himself more than anyone else.
But then – and this is the best decision the filmmakers could’ve made – it shifts focus to the man who, for all intents and purposes, could be held responsible for the accident. His name is Jacob. He was the air traffic controller present at the time of the crash and he is played, brilliantly, by the underrated Scoot McNairy (Argo, Batman v Superman, Halt and Catch Fire).
For the rest of its short run time, the film switches between Roman and Jacob, and explores, to inconsistent success, how the tragedy has affected their lives.
Aftermath is a solid, but dark postscript to Arnold’s career. He will keep doing the action roles, make no mistake. And those are the parts he will be remembered for. He had no reason to do this. But imagine someone, maybe a Schwarzenegger fan, coming across this film in 20 years.