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Flatliners (1990)

Five medical students experiment with "near death" experiences, until the dark consequences of past tragedies begin to jeopardize their lives.

Director:

Joel Schumacher

Writer:

Peter Filardi
Reviews
Popularity
3,487 ( 272)

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Kiefer Sutherland ... Nelson Wright
Julia Roberts ... Dr. Rachel Mannus
Kevin Bacon ... David Labraccio
William Baldwin ... Joe Hurley
Oliver Platt ... Randy Steckle
Kimberly Scott ... Winnie Hicks
Joshua Rudoy ... Billy Mahoney
Benjamin Mouton ... Rachel's Father
Aeryk Egan Aeryk Egan ... Young Nelson
Kesha Reed Kesha Reed ... Young Winnie
Hope Davis ... Anne Coldren
Jim Ortlieb ... Uncle Dave
John Duda John Duda ... Young Labraccio (as John Joseph Duda)
Megan Stewart Megan Stewart ... Playground Kid
Tressa Thomas ... Playground Kid
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Storyline

Medical students begin to explore the realm of near death experiences, hoping for insights. Each has their heart stopped and is revived. They begin having flashes of walking nightmares from their childhood, reflecting sins they committed or had committed against them. The experiences continue to intensify, and they begin to be physically beaten by their visions as they try and go deeper into the death experience to find a cure. Written by John Vogel <jlvogel@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Some lines shouldn't be crossed. See more »


Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

10 August 1990 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Línea mortal See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$26,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$10,034,685, 12 August 1990

Gross USA:

$61,489,265

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$61,489,265
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints)| CDS (digital 35 mm prints)| Dolby (analog 35 mm prints)

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Following a brief period of rehearsals, Joel Schumacher assembled the film's cast and crew in Chicago on October 23, 1989. For two nights, the Museum of Science and Industry was used as the ominous exterior of the Taft Building. For the exterior of the university campus, the production selected the scenic Lake Shore campus of Loyola University. See more »

Goofs

While a defibrillator is of no use if a patient has truly flatlined, a patient in a "fine v-fib" rhythm can appear to have flatlined but still be revived with the paddles. Therefore, when in doubt, the Advanced Cardiac Life Support guidelines call for administering the shock, though it's not the treatment of choice. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Nelson Wright: Today is a good day to die.
See more »

Connections

References Don't Look Now (1973) See more »

Soundtracks

THE CLAPPING SONG
Written by Lincoln Chase
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Flat Flatliners
14 March 2005 | by BrandtSponsellerSee all my reviews

A medical student named Nelson (Kiefer Sutherland) hatches a plan to explore death by briefly killing himself in a controlled environment then having his friends bring him back to life minutes later. Four fellow students join in the plan, taking turns with their explorations, competing with one another to see who can stay "under" the longest. What will the consequences of this dangerous game be? Without a doubt, the premise of Flatliners is intriguing. I can't speak for the medical veracity of the idea--I'm sure it's ridiculous--but it doesn't need to be realistic to provide fodder for a good film. Unfortunately, this isn't a good film. It's not quite failure, but it's damn close. It's as if somewhere along the line the film was brought back from the dead, but with severe brain damage.

One of the primary problems that director Joel Schumacher does not overcome is that these actors just do not seem like medical students, and the setting just doesn't seem like a medical school. In addition to Sutherland, the other "students" are Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, William Baldwin and Oliver Platt. With the exception of Platt, the other four seem more like models who got lost on their way back from a Vogue shoot. Platt seems like an overacting fussbudget who got lost on his way to a Steven Spielberg set. Writer Peter Filardi gives them more model-like dialogue, except when they're flatly reciting the medical terms they've memorized.

The "school", for some bizarre reason, is an old church/monastery, filled with Gothic statuary and modern construction accoutrements, such as scaffolding and those thick, transparent plastic sheets they hang in doorways. It does look cool, but it's difficult to buy the set as a medical school.

That might not usually be a problem for me--I love absurdism, after all, but the plot seems to hinge on the verisimilitude of the characters and their setting. What we're left with are actors going through "medical student" ritual movements and speech as they work their way through a formulaic series of events. Formulaic because much of the film consists of the same scene over and over, our cast of pretty boys (and a beautiful girl) simply take turns around the chair of honor, a bit like they're square dancing. The first time, when Nelson goes "under", it may be pretty exciting, but by the fifth time, it's just more ritual--there is little suspense.

The genre listing claims that Flatliners is a combination of horror, thriller and sci-fi. None of those seem to fit the film very well, although superficially, it makes some sense. But the scenarios are really just drama heavily imbued with symbolism and metaphor. The "fantasy" elements are intriguing enough at that, but the gist of the film consists of characters having to adjust their karmic balances. They're trying to right various wrongs, or at least perceived wrongs, towards persons from their pasts. It's fairly overt; there isn't much subtext here. The karmic imbalance material is the best of the film, but in a case of life reflecting art, Schumacher has a karmic imbalance himself--there is far too much empty ritual in the film and not enough meaty material.


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