Two strangers lives become inextricably bound together after a devastating plane crash. Inspired by actual events, AFTERMATH tells a story of guilt and revenge after an air traffic controller’s (Scoot McNairy) error causes the death of a construction foreman’s (Arnold Schwarzenegger) wife and daughter.
Roman is a man who lost his wife and child in a plane crash. The tragedy happened while air traffic controller Jake Bonanos was on duty. Roman blames the air traffic controller and cannot let it go. He is demanding answers in person.
The film is based on the real-life Überlingen mid-air collision, and the subsequent murder of Danish air traffic controller Peter Nielsen at Skyguide by Russian architect Vitaly Kaloyev, who held Nielsen responsible for the deaths of his wife and two children in the disaster.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger as Roman (based on Vitaly Kaloyev)
- Scoot McNairy as Jake Bonanos
- Maggie Grace as Christina
- Martin Donovan as Robert
- Hannah Ware as Tessa
- Mariana Klaveno as Eve Sanders
- Kevin Zegers as John Gullick
- Larry Sullivan as James Gullick
This is the grim story about two men who’s lives were greatly effected by an awful plane crash. The film states at the beginning that it is “inspired by a true story”, a story which I am not fully familiar with so I will not be able to decipher the balance between fact and fiction in this case. I can only determine how I felt about the film itself; which I found to be well made, well acted and one hell of a downer. This is not a light movie watch at all, this delves directly into some heavy material that rests on both the leads’ shoulders; played by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Scoot McNairy. Both of which do a terrific job making feel invested in what’s going on with their individual character arches within a rather small amount of time to do so before drama takes into effect.
The film has the difficult task of handling both perspectives from the aftermath (hence the title) of a life shattering disaster. One being the victim of the tragedy, Roman Melnyk (Schwarzenegger) a man who lost his wife and daughter whom was pregnant in the plane crash, that’s a premise that most anyone can easily feel for. The other perspective, however, is a little more difficult to make sure that people won’t repel from. Jake Bonaos, an air traffic controller working the air flight control center alone accidentally missed an update from one of the airplanes resulted in two planes colliding mid-air; the accident culminated into over 200 deaths, including Melnyk’s family. The film does a good job at never villainizing Jake, but also not forgetting the weight of what he was partially responsible for. It gives you enough reasons to like and care about this man that when the event does occur, you feel as bad for him as you do for the victims of the accident. That is no easy feat either, the writing could have gone way overboard at making his character too sympathetic that it risked belittling the other side. Luckily it never fell into that trap.
I do have a gripe or two with the editing of the film, while not bad and for the most part is well done. There are times where it had difficulties conveying how much time was passing or supposed to be passing. For the first two acts of the movie I wasn’t entirely sure how many hours, days, weeks, or possibly even months were being displayed until it reached a point where it cut to a full later after the crash. Also, as well as Arnold does in his role I felt as though the writing really missed an opportunity to let him shine. Don’t get me wrong, he holds his own in the dramatic work, but I feel that he should have been given more to really sink his teeth into. Contrary to popular belief, Schwarzenegger can be a truly phenomenal actor. And it shows very briefly with him becoming slightly unhinged, but for the most part he is very stoic throughout. Which does work fine for the character’s state that he is portraying but it also shows that he goes through so real emotional breakdowns that we barely get a glimpse of. So that bothered me some, but never broke the film for me.
One last thing, and it kind of has to do with the editing, the end of the film feels as though it was lacking. From here I will be getting into some slight spoils, mainly in its structure, but still be warned. I understand that it’s based on a true story and to get a cemented conclusion out of life itself is difficult, but it feels as though we go from the climax of the third act (which was very intense) to a brief montage of what is supposed to represent 10 years and then another, drastically less intense, mini climax. And the the film just kind of ends. It felt off and didn’t have enough of the right kind of build up or payoff that I felt it should have. The film simply stops dead in its tracks and that’s that. It felt cold and left me feeling slightly empty. Granted that is probably the intent of the filmmakers with a movie that deals with as dark a subject matter as this, but I felt it did it in an unsatisfying way. Maybe it should have ended a few minutes prior or added another minute more. I’m not sure, but I know that something should have been tweaked there.
Now that I’ve bashed the movie some, I do want to reiterate that this is a good movie and is done probably as well as a story like this could have ever been. It is hard to watch sometimes because of how heavy the material gets, but it is still worth praising for how it handled the material and its characters. If you think you can handle something like this then make sure you watch a lighthearted comedy after so you don’t end up in a funk for the rest of your day. This is a downer.