Maggie and now Aftermath are two films that mark a new direction for Arnold Schwarzenegger, as he continues to search for a route back to the glory days. His return to the action genre was more notable for how out of place he looked rather than any performance he may have given. Now almost 70, his advancing years have opened up a door created exclusively for mature male actors; that of the grizzled, broken man in search of catharsis. It’s a tried and tested route that has worked for countless others, although you probably wouldn’t put your mortgage on Arnie being someone to deliver an acting masterclass.
Aftermath tells the story of Roman (Schwarzenegger), a foreman who we first meet readying his home for the arrival of his wife and daughter, who are due to fly in later that day. Jake (Scoot McNairy) is the air traffic controller on duty that night, standing by helplessly as the plane carrying Roman’s family is taken out of the sky in a mid-air collision, killing all 271 passengers. Javier Gullón’s (Enemy) script is based on the real life murder of air traffic controller Peter Nielsen by Russian architect Vitaly Kaloyev, a man so distraught by the death of his family that he sought personal revenge.
As the title indicates, the focus is very much on the events that take place after the disaster, told from the perspectives of both men. Roman falls into a heavy depression, refusing to leave his house and struggling to come to terms with their deaths. Jake’s world is falling to pieces as he replays events over again in his head, creating a huge strain on his own domestic life. As the investigation continues and both men try to make sense of their lives once again, Roman becomes convinced that confronting Jake may be the only way to get a handle on his trauma.
Director Elliott Lester delivers a by-the-numbers drama that never manages to step inside the psychological downfall of these two men. McNairy does his best with a script packed full of clichés and hollow exchanges, and no matter how wide Arnie’s shoulders may be, carrying a role like this is beyond him. The small emotional notes needed to open us up to Roman’s grief fail to register on his granite-like features, and it’s hard to find a reason to care about what happens to either man.
The sombre looking poster will give you a clear idea of the film’s heavy tone, a mood that is weighed down further by a dour sounding score. By the end we feel no closer to the characters than we did at the start and you are left to wonder what the point of it all was. This path is just as unlikely to get Arnie back to where he wants to be and with a sequel to Twins and another Conan in the pipeline, it looks like more of the same is on its way.