Arnold Schwarzenegger’s foray into dramatic acting continues from 2015’s Maggie in which he played a father who has the unbearable task of mercy killing his own daughter when she is stricken with a virus that turns her into a violent zombie, to this year’s Aftermath. In Maggie, Arnold was quite effective as Wade who must come to terms with what he must do in order to survive. In Aftermath, he plays Roman, a highly efficient construction foreman who is on his way to pick up his pregnant daughter and wife from the airport. They have been away for some time so he is understandably excited to see them. He has decorated the house with “Welcome Home” signs and has an extravagant meal prepared awaiting them all. When he arrives at the airport, he is given the worst kind of news. Their plane has collided with another plane in mid-air. There are no survivors.
In a state of shock, Roman returns home and becomes a bit of a hermit. I mean, who wouldn’t, right? As the FAA and the airlines investigate what happened, it becomes a possibility that an air traffic controller might be to blame. Jacob (Scoot McNairy) is that air traffic controller. He is a seemingly good man with a lovely wife named Christina (Maggie Grace) and he has a son, Samuel. They are a close knit family. The news is simply terrifying. I mean, who wants to be blamed for the deaths of hundreds of people? How would we take that news? Roman then sets out to find answers and his answers lead him down a road that neither Roman or Jacob may come back from.
Now, Aftermath is based on a true story. The names have all been changed and the location of the story has been relocated from Germany to America but the elements of the story remain unchanged. From the outset of Aftermath, this film had me locked in. Arnold, once again, shows he is able to dig down and deliver a solid performance without all of the flash and pizzazz of his action films. He is able to convey a broken man who is trying to process the tragedy that has befallen him; shock, anger and finally acceptance. Scoot McNairy is equally strong as Jacob. He, too is utterly devastated of what has happened, whether he is found guilty or not, he blames himself and cannot get past what he may or may have not done. These performances are the key to why Aftermath, despite some pacing issues, works.
Aftermath is not a big action film. Arnold does not brandish a gun and go on a killing spree. This is a film about loss and loneliness. Director Elliot Lester and screenwriter Javier Gullon have created a somber but moving film about the passing of people and time. It is a quiet film that relies on well fleshed out characters and a story that we can connect to. The true story behind this film is pretty much as you see it unfold on screen but some of the details have been altered especially for the climax, which in my research, may or may have not happened in reality. It fits within the context of Aftermath, however so it did not bother me. Mark D. Todd’s score is slightly reminiscent of the kind of textured score from The Revenant, but it is quite effective for this film.
I suppose if I had any problems with Aftermath, it is with the pacing in the second act just before we get to the final act. The story seems to sputter and not progress forward. There is the addition of a journalist trying to write a book on the tragedy named Tess (Hannah Ware), who is an important part of the story but not really delved into. But overall, Aftermath is a heartbreakingly realistic film about good people emerging from tragedy in different ways, how they deal with their grief and if revenge is worth it. On this level and with two very powerful performances by Arnold and Scoot McNairy, Aftermath is worth watching.
Aftermath – ***3/4 out of 5
Aftermath – Rated R for language, brief graphic violence and adult situations
Aftermath – Run Time is 93 Minutes
Aftermath is now playing in select cities, On Demand and subscription services. Check your local listings for times, locations and availability.