Writer: Peter Filardi
Kiefer Sutherland as Nelson Wright
Kevin Bacon as Dave Labraccio
Julia Roberts as Rachel Manus
William Baldwin as Joe Hurley
Oliver Platt as Randy Steckle
Synopsis: A group of medical students decide to find the answer to "what happens when you die" by experiencing it themselves - with the confidence that they can bring each other back to life before it's too late.
Overall: 90/100 A-
Review: As I'm sure anyone could guess just by looking at the cast list, Julia Roberts was the weakest part of this film - acting and casting-wise. Not only is it tough to see her playing a medical student for the obvious reasons, she also only delivers a decent performance. Kiefer Sutherland and Kevin Bacon, on the other hand, really showcase their talents and give very compelling performances. I'd even say this is probably one of Bacon's best roles. Oliver Platt proved himself to be a good side-character actor, as per usual, and William Baldwin was decent to mediocre (yet still better than Roberts).
The premise was very interesting here and it was one of the earliest films to show Generation X's ambition and desire to "upstage those [freaking] Baby Boomers!" It was also very true to the nihilism that embodied Generation X: These group of students were willing to die - and essentially "kill" each other - to reach their goals. Generation X grew up in a tough time, when the crime rate was high and they were often left to fend for themselves (known as the "latchkey children"). There had been a bit of a depression, a raise in oil prices and a constant flow of divorce. All of these negative things contributed to the nihilistic attitudes that are very symbolic of Generation X.
The film had a lot of religious undertones but is still interesting enough for atheist viewers to enjoy. In fact, Kevin Bacon's character is an atheist, and like everyone else's character in the film, he has his own reasons for wanting to partake in this "experiment" - adding some depth and perspective to the film.
I think the answers that they came up with, primarily of reliving the memories and imagery that had "impacted" the characters the most, was actually pretty compelling and entertaining. It was interesting how they portrayed death as "lulling" and "inviting" one in. (Could be a scary thought in itself.) The premise of redemption was classic-religious storytelling but done in a tasteful way, nonetheless.
Also, the fact that none of the people who "died and came back" suffered any kind of brain problems as a result, was very unbelievable. They only only slightly alluded to the phenomenon of the potential to come back with "benefits" (which judging by the trailer, the sequel does plan to get more into).
End of Spoiler Alert!
The suspense was gripping throughout most of the film, from the "experiment" procedures to the after-math following each one. The imagery of the hospital in the beginning looked more like an old church dungeon than an actual hospital - providing some interesting imagery, but taking away from the scenery at the same time. Throughout the film, there was a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle visual imagery of "faces watching", (as part of the religious symbolism) that looked pretty cool if you caught it.
Overall this film was suspenseful, presented some interesting thoughts and ideas, and provided some commendable performances. Definitely a good watch for a "scary movie" or "darker subject" kind of night.