Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Cast: Ellen Page, Diego Luna, Nina Dobrev
Watch Flatliners (2017) online in the UK: iTunes / Amazon Instant Video / TalkTalk TV / Virgin Movies / eir Vision Movies / Rakuten TV / Google Play
If you’ve not seen the 1990 Flatliners already, the chances are that boat has sailed. It’s not essential, though, to have watched its predecessor before embarking on Niels Arden Oplev’s modern update – it merely offers an optional sense of context.
The film once again follows of a group of medical students seeking some sort of respite between the stresses and pressures of their careers. Here, Ellen Page, Diego Luna, and Nina Dobrev play the curious youngsters – Courtney (Page), Ray (Luna), Marlo (Dobrev), Jamie (James Norton), and Sophia (Kiersey Clemons) – whose one experimental encounter with ‘the other side’ leads them to push the limits of their bodies and minds. They intentionally flatline each other in the hope of experiencing life after death, in a vain attempt to expand their knowledge and capabilities.
The consequences of stepping into that other realm of ‘living’ begins to haunt them physically and psychologically, and what starts as a thriller with a solid helping of drama – as the gang bond and offer one another a shoulder to cry on – soon turns sinister and very much treads horror territory. Anyone who is unfamiliar with the original, like this writer, won’t appreciate the subtle nuances and nods to the first, such as a cameo from Kiefer Sutherland. But that’s by no means to say you’ll fail to appreciate what the film is attempting to communicate.
In a stress-induced 21st century, where a younger generation is under enormous pressure to succeed and achieve, these individuals are a result of that expectation. Flatlining is a twisted ploy of dealing with said life anxieties, even though dying may not necessarily be everyone’s de-stressor of choice. Not only does this address the fast-paced lifestyle of the millennial, it also bears a significant message in that we see characters with flaws and undesirable traits through various flashbacks and actually tackles them; our leads are forced to face up to their pasts and, in some cases, forgive themselves to be at peace in their current lives. Whether this is a case of self-preservation and/or interest or a genuine attempt at redemption is open to debate, but it makes for an interesting discussion point.
Compared to the original, genders are switched up to form a stronger, female-led film that not only commands them more screentime than the men, but refreshingly ends up impacting and shaping the narrative away from a male-dominated production. The update is just that: a modernised, more gender-balanced, sexually liberating and charged approach.
Each role is diverse enough and well acted by its cast. The ensemble is layered and interesting, yet stripped down, devoid of any plot device convolution. It’s a sign of competent scriptwriting that the characters are neither overwritten nor underdeveloped. In a sea of dead-end reimaginings that tend to offer nothing new, Flatliners is a welcome remake. A pacy journey of horror, suspense, and, when desperately trying to resuscitate one another, anxiety, this is a fresh and original ride.