Flatliners (1990) – Film Review
Director: Joel Schumacher
Cast: Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon
By Sarah Morgan
Student life… a time of getting drunk, doing things you wouldn’t do if you were still living with mum and dad, and, in the case of the group featured in Flatliners, being brought back from the dead by your mates.
Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, Julia Roberts, Oliver Platt and William Baldwin play a gang of medical students. But keeping people alive isn’t enough for headstrong Nelson (Sutherland) – he wants to use his skills to unlock the secrets of death. He opens the film by claiming “it’s a good day to die”, then persuades his cohorts to temporarily kill him. His plan is that, after he’s flatlined for a short period of time, they should revive him.
After he’s successfully brought back, his friends – except for Platt’s ludicrously named Randy Steckle, deemed cowardly but clearly the only sensible one of the bunch – follow suit. All of them witness different visions that follow them back into the land of the living, and it’s up to them to figure out what they all mean so they can be resolved before they lose their minds, if they haven’t done so already.
Although an ensemble piece, Sutherland is the erstwhile leading man, and there’s a nod to his father Donald’s seminal role in classic chiller Don’t Look Now when he’s chased by a diminuntive figure in a red hooded garment. His performance is fine, but it lacks the maturity that would make him a major TV star in 24 a decade later.
Bacon delivers his customary personable performance, Platt is, as ever, wonderful, while Baldwin displays a sensitive side that makes you wonder why he didn’t go on to become a bigger star.
One cast member who did, of course, is Julia Roberts, who was dating Sutherland at the time. Her character, Rachel, is a little cliched – she’s gorgeous, but we know she’s smart too because she wears spectacles. However, she gives the guys as good as she gets.
Schumacher really cranks the tension up throughout, although why he shot the film in what looks like a permanently dark derelict art gallery is a mystery – surely medical schools and hospitals are far more clinical places. But that’s a small quibble.
As long as you’re not looking for major insights into the afterlife, Flatliners is a whole lot of fun, and this new release is packed full of superb special features, which makes it even more appealing.
• Brand new 4K restoration from the original negative, approved by director of photography Jan de Bont
• High Definition Blu-ray™ (1080p) presentation
• Lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 surround soundtracks
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Brand new audio commentary by critics Bryan Reesman and Max Evry
• The Conquest of our Generation, a brand new video interview with screenwriter Peter Filardi
• Visions of Light, a brand new video interview with director of photography Jan de Bont and chief lighting technician Edward Ayer
• Hereafter, a brand new video interview with first assistant director John Kretchmer
• Restoration, a brand new video interview with production designer Eugenio Zanetti and art director Larry Lundy
• Atonement, a brand new video interview with composer James Newton Howard and orchestrator Chris Boardman
• Dressing for Character, a brand new interview with costume designer Susan Becker
• Theatrical trailer
• Image gallery
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin
Flatliners is released on 4k Ultra HD by Arrow, £24.99