Nobody Ever Sticks Up for the Tsunami

So I feel sort of bad picking on it, but some of the big-giant-wave FX shots were overly ambitious. And yet the opening sequence felt surprisingly grounded, due largely to the face of Belgian actress Cecile De France (whose name is trying to make us all feel stupid). Yes I know, this is the second review in a row where I go on about an actor's face instead of her performance. It's almost like I don't even know how acting works. Actually it so happens I've taken a few acting classes and can tell you with certainty that I don't know how it works. But it just seems to me that Cecile De France has more character baked right into her face than, say, Naomi Watts, who was in a trailer than ran before this movie (in case it seems like I'm singling her out unfairly).

Oops. I'm afraid I was about to say that French/Belgian actresses are allowed to get a little longer in the tooth than their American counterparts, when I did a quick check on IMDB. Cecile De France is one year younger than me, for whatever that's worth, and apparently seven years younger than Naomi Watts. Also the latter is not American. Okay, I'm definitely not saying De France looks old. She's the most attractive woman I've seen on any glowing rectangle in recent memory (or I guess since the last time I saw Charlotte Gainsbourg). Nor am I accusing Naomi Watts of making unholy use of any cosmetic technology. Let me put it this way: it would be easier to write down the mathematical equation for Watts' face than it would be for the Belgian's. If you know what I mean and I think you--well, you probably don't.

In any case, I thought all the leads did a good job, and the whole thing was well turned out, but it didn't do much for me in the end. Sometimes a movie is like a candy bar you bite into only to realize it's still in the wrapper. This has been the case with all the Clint Eastwood movies I can remember since Unforgiven. Well made, but with a layer of artifice I can't seem to get past. Maybe he's learned a few too many tricks of the trade. Or maybe I have. Details like Matt Damon's overly insensitive brother or De France's unpleasantly young and pretty replacement seem like obvious levers the movie pulls to steer the audience's sympathy and the characters' trajectory. On the other hand, the blindfolded cooking class scene did get me a little.

I would complain that the film is peddling tepidly non-commital, overly-palatable spirituality, but I'm not sure it's even about spirituality. If you're asking the literal question "what comes after death?" then you're not really asking a spiritual question. And the literal answer given by this film is hard to see clearly. I got the impression that it was some sort of giant parking garage.