Flatliners (Blu-ray)

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Let’s take a trip back to the Summer of 1990, shall we? Not a whole lot was different “back then”, George Bush was president and we were at war with Iraq. Film-wise, movies like “Ghost”, “Days of Thunder” , “Dick Tracy” and “Total Recall” were hits at the box office and a little movie called “Flatliners” had a great cast of some fairly new, fresh faces. Yes, we’d seen Kiefer Sutherland in previous movies like “Stand by Me” and “The Lost Boys” but who was this other Baldwin brother? Little did we know there was yet another (Stephen). Julia Roberts was coming off her Spring-time box office success of “Pretty Woman” and wouldn’t you know it, she and Kiefer Sutherland were an item. Yep, before Brad and Angelina (and Brad and Gweyneth), Bennifer and TomKat, there was Kiefer and Julia. Naturally they didn’t last, but the on-screen chemistry is there, to be sure. Enough about the cast, though I have neglected to mention Kevin Bacon and this movie certainly helped his “Six Degrees” stature. The idea behind the film is this: “Can you cheat death to see what’s on the other side?”

The answer is yes…and no. Kiefer Sutherland plays Nelson, an ambitious young doctor (actually, come to think of it they’re all ambitious young doctors) who is obsessed with finding out the secrets that lay beyond the grave. The only thing is that he doesn’t want to wait for death to find out – he wants to medically kill himself only to have his cohorts bring him back. A novel idea in theory, but who’s crazy enough to kill themselves just to find out what lies beyond the light. His friends, who consist of Rachel (Julia Roberts), David (Kevin Bacon), Joe (William Baldwin) and Randy (Oliver Platt) begrudgingly help him achieve his goal. As fate would have it, the experiment works. Nelson sees a key memory from his childhood in which he and his friends mistakenly killed a young boy, Billy Mahoney (Joshua Rudoy). But Nelson’s experiment has caused Billy to cross over as well and he’s not making life easy for him. As it turns out, each member of the klan goes beyond the grave and each brings back their own personal demons that they must find a way to conquer. Are some questions better left unanswered? You be the judge.

I remember seeing “Flatliners” in the theater and really liked it. I think the movie has held up surprisingly well and considering it’d cost about $50 million alone just to get the cast back together, it’s somewhat of a rarity. The movie is good, but not great and if taken with a grain of salt then I think others will find it as interesting as I did. I’m a big fan of Joel Schumacher’s films (the “Batman” movies aside) and he’s in top form here. Regardless if you’re a fan of any one of the lead actors, you have to admit that they all deliver some strong performances here. And I’m impressed by the concept of the film as well. I’m not a doctor (nor do I play one on TV), but the concept does actually sound feasible. I’m sure somewhere and somehow, this film has probably influenced someone to ponder this scenario. Then again, it is only a movie and maybe I’m taking it all a little too seriously. At the very least, “Flatliners” is entertaining and even moreso on Blu-ray (take that standard DVD).

Video: How does it look?

The MPEG-2 HD 2.35:1 transfer is actually quite a bit more impressive than I thought it would be. The movie is 17 years old and some of Columbia/Tristar’s (Sony) titles are a bit hit and miss. However, I was clearly (no pun intended) impressed with how this looks on Blu-ray. I saw no real evidence of artifacting, something I was expecting, and the film has a very clean and polished look giving it a very “film-like” appearance. The movie is quite dark, both in tone and the way it was shot. Black levels held up surprisingly well and I’m hard-pressed to find much wrong with it. A few of the scenes do look a little soft and I did notice a few blips here and there but considering the age of the movie, I think Sony has done this one right.

Audio: How does it sound?

I broke out my old standard DVD of “Flatliners” and noticed that the soundtrack was a 2-channel mix. Imagine my surprise when I selected the PCM uncompressed mix available on this Blu-ray disc. Granted, it’s not the best out there but when you consider the fact that this is the first time this film has been in 5.1 sound, I was floored. James Newton Howard’s score sounds full and robust as it emanates through all five speakers. Dialogue is actually a bit iffy, there’s a particular scene when David (Kevin Bacon) is rappelling down a wall and his voice sounds as if it’s echoing. It’s a bit odd, but I assume one of the things associated with turning a stereo mix into an uncompressed mix. On the whole, I was very impressed with the way this sounded, an unexpected gem you might say.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Unfortunately, we get no extras. Not even a trailer. True fans might want to upgrade but your money will only buy you the movie itself.

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