The Discovery (2017) Poster

(I) (2017)

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Teases With An Interesting Idea But Fails To Fill A Convincing Plot Around It
CinemaClown11 April 2017
The idea behind the premise of The Discovery is an interesting one but its implementation isn't as refined as expected and only works in bits n pieces. It's a thoughtful feature that experiments with existential elements and poses some intriguing questions but it neither presents it in a convincing manner nor remains thoroughly gripping.

Set in the near-future, the story of The Discovery takes place in a world where suicide rate is at an all-time high after a scientist's breakthrough research proved the existence of an afterlife. The plot follows his son who is skeptical of his father's discovery and a mysterious young woman he meets on a ferry who wants to find out more about the afterlife.

Co-written & directed by Charlie McDowell, the film opens with a prologue that skilfully sets up the future the rest of the plot unfolds in. For a while, it appears as if the director is taking more time to properly establish the characters & explore the metaphysical elements but the longer it continues to ponder over the same stuff, the more tedious it becomes.

The script is where the problem lies, for the brilliant hypothesis that the writers came up with isn't meticulously explored as if they couldn't figure out what to do with it, plus none of the characters inhabiting its future-setting are compelling enough. The plot wrapped around its theory begins on a promising note but by the time it ends, it finds itself in a familiar territory.

The cold colour palette, overcast ambiance & muted textures evoke a grim, hopeless future which fits the story requirements. Pacing is an issue as the movie plods through its 102 minutes runtime before concluding with a rushed ending. Rooney Mara, Robert Redford & Jesse Plemons play their part well but Jason Segel is severely miscast, and his chemistry with Mara is absolutely flat.

On an overall scale, The Discovery is one of those sci-fi flicks that teases with a fascinating idea but is unable to fill a compact & captivating narrative structure around it. Deficient in storytelling department and further marred by its cluelessness & lack of vision, it is a dull & sterile mess that had the opportunity to offer a sensory & stimulating experience but what it ultimately delivers is a cinematic ride that's as frustrating as it is hollow.
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Underrated flick that deserves a viewing
imdbuser3319 April 2017
I wasn't sure about seeing this film because of the rating, but the concept was interesting and being a fan of Rooney Mara's work I decided to give it a shot. And I am glad I did.

The opening scene is very well done because it grabs your attention from the first second. But what comes after is what bothered most of the viewers who felt disappointed - the personal story line between Jason Siegel's and Rooney Mara's characters becoming the center of attention instead of the concept of an afterlife and how it works.

Personally, while watching the movie, I did feel a little bit deceived, because "the discovery" took a back seat, BUT after finishing the movie it all made sense. I think the film was very well structured and managed to get across it's idea and explanation of how afterlife works very well to the audience, without having to talk about it and explain it in every scene as if the viewers are little children. I do not agree with some statements that the concept of "the discovery" was not well done, finished or explained well. Last 10 min. do contain a lot of information and the viewer should pay attention.

The acting was very good, however overall I must agree that it is not the most exciting film. What I mean is that it won't be in your "most memorable or favorite"movie list. It's a good watch on lazy night though. Give it a go.
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Underrated Existential Weirdness
mikethebeckett2 April 2017
Don't know why this is getting some bad reviews. This was actually pretty darn good.

This movie has an interesting take on consciousness and death that is worth the time to watch. Perhaps people are not liking the existential weirdness and the questions it brings up but I enjoyed myself on this one.

I think we all need to ponder consciousness and reality a little more.
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Interesting premise, disappointing overall
redeyes-002028 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
The movie starts off with an intriguing premise, the scientific discovery of the afterlife. Good cast, should be a decent story... what could go wrong? Well, I guess a lot could.

Nice seeing Redford in a film, some of the supporting cast is fine, but Mara seems miscast, and her 'leading man' has the personality of a house plant. Zero chemistry between them, and at no point do you really find their romance believable. It's difficult to figure out why the filmmakers basically decided to make the film into a love story between such boring characters when the simple premise of the film is much more interesting. Mara apparently can play just one type of character, which we see in every single film she is in -- the sullen girl. And she's paired up with the least curious, least interesting, scientist in the world. Will (her love interest) seems to sleepwalk through the movie with a pained looked on his face, like he has a nail in his shoe or he simply doesn't want to be in the film.

Meanwhile they have Redford, supposedly the most important discovery in the history of humanity, and they end up with a looping love story more reminiscent of Sisyphus than anything else.

Anyway, the science of course is hokum, but there are several large plot holes. Like giant gaping craters. Afterlife proved incontrovertibly would seem to imply peer review and other scientists being involved. Then why does the film act like Redford's character alone can do this research? Why do they pretend like if he hides his findings it will even matter? Surely someone else in the World is doing this same research.

Instead of tackling the subject head on, the film veers off into little adventures, like finding a corpse -- which of course is a great opportunity for our lovebirds to bond.

After a weak middle, the film takes a turn into stupid, with our previously never-curious scientist doing the death dance himself. This results in a final explanation of how the afterlife works ... which feels like the film ran out of ideas and wanted to wrap things up real quick.

Personally I would have preferred they simply went with the idea that the research was flawed, humans look for meaning and patterns where there are none, and that Redford's character was responsible for millions of deaths. Not exactly a crowd-pleasing ending, but it's better than what they came up with.
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Interesting premise and good acting, then kind of falls apart
UncleLongHair21 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I actually started watching this by accident by hitting the wrong button on Netflix, and was intrigued by the premise and seeing craggy old Robert Redford and so I kept watching. Without any spoilers (though maybe you've already read some) I thought the basic idea featuring the afterlife was interesting and well-presented. There is a reason why Robert Redford has been a leading man for over 50 years and it's always a pleasure to see him on screen.

I also thought the supporting actors were very good, a lot of personality came across from each character, I also liked the scenes and cinematography, which in a quiet way set a great backdrop. Suffice it to say I was drawn in, and about a third the way through the movie it sets up something that could be Dr. Frankenstein, or The Sixth Sense, or Jonestown, or some combination.

This unfortunately was the peak of the movie. It had set up a sweet romance between the characters played by Jason Segel and Rooney Mara, and that romance turned saccharine sweet and ended up being the main point of the movie which was a surprise. The whole science / religion / afterlife / from the beyond premise was dropped on the floor and nothing developed from it which was the reason I was watching. I thought there was enough depth to the idea that I wondered if they could wrap it up in an hour, in fact I checked to make sure I wasn't watching the pilot of a series. But instead they just pulled the plug. At the scene where the plot twisted in this direction I literally rolled my eyes.

Overall an interesting watch but disappointing in the end.
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A solemn exploration of life and death.
interastral2 April 2017
Wow, this is a really cool, thoughtful and moving film. The kind of drama that really justifies film making because it explores the meaning and beauty of life in way that is emotive and intelligent.

The story is believable and intriguing and draws you into it's subtle mystery so that you really feel for the experiences that the characters themselves are having and their justifiable desire to unravel the mystery.

The pace of the drama is just right and never boring and there are numerous moments, that while not being comedic, make you smile or want to chuckle. But this film also deals with some really serious subjects in a mature and compassionate way. Overall it's a really beautiful and life affirming movie.

Highly recommended! :-)
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A huge waste of a great idea
eddie_baggins9 April 2017
Talk about a wasted opportunity.

A fine cast led by the underrated Jason Segal (still doing his best to break out from his How I Met Your Mother persona and delivering a so-so turn when you look back at his role in End of the Tour) and backed up by Rooney Mara, Robert Redford and one of the finest supporting players going around Jason Plemon's isn't enough to save Charlie McDowell's Netflix original Sci-Fi/Drama The Discovery from a disappointing result and ending its runtime as one of the most frustratingly forgettable films in many a moon.

The core idea behind The Discovery, that Redford's scientist Thomas Harber has discovered evidence of a confirmed afterlife, leading to a world in which the suicide rates have ramped up to epidemic levels with Harber then working on a secret project that looks to record this afterlife for those alive to witness is a fantastic one and an idea that strikes up many a various conversation point but McDowell's film which ends up being more of an unbelievable romance between Segal's charisma free Will and Mara's mumbling and emo Isla than anything else feels unable to make the most of its idea.

Perhaps hampered by budget restraint's (although this hardly seems to be a problem for Netflix originals these days) or perhaps just a lack of overall vision. The Discovery showcases glimmers of what could be in stall for us whether it's the oft mentioned suicides, the cult like following Harber has garnered thanks to his work or Will's and Isla's investigation into a possible glimpse of the afterlife they have recorded but all these intriguing elements are quickly swept under the rug and while the film's final reveal makes the journey feel more rewarding than it actually is, you can't help but escape the feeling The Discovery has short-changed its viewers with a mediocre effort of a far more interesting story.

It's great seeing Netflix continue to invest in unique and original film properties but The Discovery will be marked down as one of their clear failures and while this intellectual thinking man's Sci-Fi has moments of greatness, overall this emotionally void experience is one of the dominate companies worst original studio efforts this side of their Sandler "comedies".

2 bunk beds out of 5
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A Great Idea That Just Never Comes Together
zkonedog30 April 2017
There are a number of good things that can be said about Netflix's "The Discovery": It is good to see Netflix tackling big-budget, dramatic/sci-fi fare. It's encouraging that actors with the reputation such as Robert Redford has are now willing to work with the premiere streaming service. Plus, "The Discovery" actually has a germ of a really great idea at its core. Unfortunately, however, the film never really comes together like it should, essentially wasting that inventive idea with clunky acting and even worse pacing.

For a basic plot summary, "The Discovery" takes place in a future where noted scientist Thomas (Redford) has definitively proved the existence of an afterlife. The problem? Now people are committing suicide by the millions knowing that "something else" is beyond this mortal coil. The next logical step for Thomas, then? Discovering exactly what this afterlife consists of. This is where his son Will (Jason Segel) comes into the picture, visiting the scientist for the first time since a major falling-out to try and convince him to scrap the entire project. Along the way, younger son Toby (Jesse Plemons) chooses sides, while Will finds a mysterious woman (played by Rooney Mara) who has her own relationship with the "discovery".

Like I said, the concept behind this film is fascinating: What would happen if the afterlife were proved scientifically? Also, and I won't give away spoilers here, but even the research into what that afterlife consists of is fascinating in what it entails.

Unfortunately, though, the film is only a middling effort because of two glaring missteps that drag down the whole production:

1. The romance angle between Will & Isla. If you've seen the film "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", that one nails this dynamic much better. In "Discovery", however, there is just no reason to believe that these two will fall in love, much less how that angle comes to dominant much of the film's runtime.

2. Perhaps better acting would have saved that romance angle, but alas it wasn't to be found here. Mara is much too bland as Isla, while Segel is terribly miscast as the lead. More than blank, brooding stares were needed for the role, but that is all Segel seems to be able to provide here. Redford is his usually solid self, and Plemmons steals the show from time to time, but other than that none of the other acting performances are above average (with some being quite below that line).

So, while "The Discovery" is a film that I really want to like more than 5-stars out of 10, the end product just isn't worthy of anything more. Had the sci-fi aspect been the focus throughout, I think that would have improved things considerably. A better, less confusing ending would have helped as well. As it stands, though, "Discovery" comes off as a very second-rate "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" clone. Netflix may be taking strides in the right direction when it comes to original feature films, but there is still a ways to go to compete with the big studios.
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If you love low budget sci-fi with interesting ideas - this is a miss for you
kuarinofu16 February 2019
They bait you into thinking that this will provide for some interesting ideas for you to reflect on, but nope.

The main problem is that the story doesn't hold. I mean, the message of the movie is good and inspiring, but the story is just a mess that is full of holes.

They just took one good old movie and re-told it slightly adjusting the focus. I won't spoil it for you so check this out if you're interested anyways.

But be warned, this movie is slow and packs quite a run time. What's more interesting is that they actually stretch it out intentionally, it has a lot of unnecessary scenes they should've cut and it wouldn't hurt the movie. Probably they had a run time to meet or something.

The dialogue is often forced, some scenes are written so badly they are barely believable. Also, the lead seriously underperforms, his acting is unconvincing and he is unable to deliver emotional moments (you'll see).

If you're a hardcore sci-fi fan, the ending will disappoint you (mostly because of how random it is). But you will know long before that the movie is going nowhere.
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Too ambitious, fails in form and substance
mingsphinx31 March 2019
Just reading the synopsis raised my expectations, which is perhaps why the movie fell flat for me. Instead of an exploration of an intriguing idea, the film really became a declaration of faith in what is essentially a notion that cannot be proven and thus cannot really be known. When assertions are made about the mysteries of consciousness, you either believe them or you do not.

I would have given this a higher rating just for tackling such a difficult topic but the direction, acting and even cinematography never really came together. There were plenty of big, proven names who lent their prestige to this project and yet surprisingly none of the people involved seemed willing to commit. It was like they all knew the outcome would stink but no one wanted to sully their reputations by doing a bad job.

It is worth a watch if you are fans of some of the actors as I am. The arc of the plot is not unsatisfying even though it is in many instances frustrating. A film perhaps to while away the time and put yourself in a more contemplative mood.
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The most fascinating concept of the afterlife that I've ever seen in a movie.
NeonDisguise31 March 2017
Warning: Spoilers
No spoilers here, and the title pretty much sums up my sentiment towards this film.

I have always been interested in the concept of things like afterlife and reincarnation (or the exploration of a lack thereof), but rarely do I find a film that creatively and honestly explores this subject. This is an absolutely marvelous film if you're interested in these concepts.

However, if you're the god-fearing type or a hardcore fanatic of any western religion, this film might not be for you. This seems to be a film for people who try to look beyond what their religion explains to them, or perhaps people who do not follow a religion at all.

I rated this a 10 out of 10. Does that mean that this is equivalent to the best films I've ever seen in my life? No it does not. But because it explores such a magnificent concept that many of us tend to ignore while being surrounded by our material lives, it is well-deserving of a 10/10.

Side notes: The acting was superb, and Rooney Mara is adorable!

Bonus: If you enjoy this film, I would highly suggest that you watch "I Origins" (2014), as it explores the same type of topic.

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Sentimental, yet great
Velocerix18 April 2017
A fundamentally sentimental film, but I really liked it. Very slow-paced, starting from a great premise, but not being aggressive about it. It doesn't push it in your face. It's a film as slow-burning as the romance that is at its core. A romance between two sad souls who are meant for each other. It's as hopeful as it is sad.
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Mediocre writing and directing wasted a great concept
vithiet2 November 2019
What a waste. The concept and overall story were fantastic. Unfortunately, that is where Netflix is showing its limits with Originals and the sub-par, lazy writing and directing that is barely above novice level. Even the great cast giving their best are unable to save it. This could have been an amazing, smart and original movie but ends up falling flat.
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A good try, but didn't hit the target
Tamith31 March 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I don't think I spoiled the plot for anyone, but just in case - spoiler warning.

In my opinion, the premise of this movie was a great one. Though I could have done without idea of a love story being pushed in the description, I felt that the plot made for a perfect psychological thriller, or just a perfect horror movie, if nothing else; though since the root of the concept the story ends up hinging on is pretty horrifying when the fuller implications of such are thought through, and especially when compared to the comforting finality of my own personal religion's afterlife, perhaps it did end up being a horror movie of sorts, for me, lol.

I was genuinely surprised by the direction the story took, despite the fact that, to agree with the other reviewer, it does end up boiling down to an over-sweet love story. I mean, the plot explains why such a strange pairing with such improbable coincidences bringing them together, would take place, but still, I think it's a shame that a story that was interesting on its own, had to suffer by being made the afterthought of such a shallow love story. ESotSM did it better, and actually had a reason for romance to be the root of it.

Nevertheless, though the movie tried to be prolific and profound, it was neither. Interestingly presented concept (and a phenomenally crafted opening scene), sure, but overall, it's an afterlife concept that's far from new and overused in other movies on the subject that try, but are unsuccessful at putting a new spin on an old religious idea.

So in the end, other critics were unfortunately correct in saying that the premise was good, but that little else was. A saving grace is that at least the production quality was there, however, which put it on par, in my opinion, with the likes of Melancholia, The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Bokeh, etc.

Worth a watch, sure, but don't expect much out of it when you do.
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Who needs Jesus when we have Redford to show us Death has no sting?
aldiboronti28 March 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Two years after a scientist finds solid proof of the existence of an afterlife and after a subsequent drastic increase in the worldwide rate of suicides two people meet on an otherwise empty ferry heading to a small seaside town. They are Will (Jason Segel) and Isla (Rooney Maria). Will turns out to be the son of the aforementioned scientist, played by Robert Redford. The latter has retired to an isolated house since his discovery which is staffed by people who attempted suicide and failed. There he works on attempting to record by means of some electronic gizmo wired to his head what happens in the moments after death by flat-lining.

Subsequent events unfold in a somewhat predictable fashion but don't make the mistake of thinking this is an sf or horror movie because that's not really what it is although it does incorporate elements of each. What it is at heart in fact is a rather syrupy love story.In fact the film-makers may have shot themselves in the foot here as its intended audience may be put off by the sf/horror scenes while the horror crowd will see the tag 'love story' and decide this is too schmaltzy for them. And they'd be right.
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Enthusiasm Gives Way to Bitter Frustration, Maybe Anger
Marc_Action2 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
So, Robert Redford plays a scientist, Dr. Thomas Harbor, that has discovered proof of the afterlife, at least in some basic form. Dr. Harbor decides to go public with his findings, unexpectedly leading to a sharp rise in worldwide suicides as folks from all walks of life try to make it "there" (as the afterlife is so nonchalantly referred to by characters in the movie). Only problem is, Dr. Harbor doesn't know exactly what "there" is, and whether "there" is a good thing or bad thing.

To find out, Dr. Harbor sets up a Flatliners (1990)-style lab in an old, abandoned mansion reminiscent of any mental hospital of yesteryear. But then Harbor's oldest (Prodigal) son shows up to stop his father from "playing God" along with a mystery girl. And so now we have family drama, romance, and a syfy/thriller rolled into one, right? Well, yes, and no. Let me explain…

The Discovery starts out as more than just promising with Redford doing what first rate actors do, and without really doing much. However, what promises to be a more in-depth take on the dark, but thought-provoking plot of Flatliners from nearly three decades ago, soon takes a backseat to a contrived love story between Dr. Harbor's son and the mystery lady.

Sorry, but the love story can't carry The Discovery on its own. For one thing, the son, Will (Jason Segel) and the mystery woman, Isla (Rooney Mara) have zero chemistry and believability. A vacuum cleaner and a 1960s toaster oven could get together as replacements for Mara and Segel's scenes and there'd be more sparks. The half-baked script doesn't help matters either. Such a shame writers felt this relationship needed to be center stage at the cost of the afterlife syfy/thriller stuff. I really wanted to see what unique concepts they'd come up with for explaining the afterlife.

Well, those answers do come, sort of... But by the time the plot gets to that point, any enthusiasm the viewer has, has been killed by the utter boredom that transpires up to that point. There's also a big plot twist that isn't that big and combined with the revelation of what goes on in the afterlife, they both amount to one big snoozefest. This mess of a film just might cause folks to contemplate suicide in real life.

I also have problems with the plausibility of some things that go on in the film. For instance, Dr. Harbor has made arguably the greatest discovery in human history, and yet he has to resort to stealing cadavers to further his studies? I would think folks would be waiting in line to donate their corpses to Dr. Harbor's work after such an otherworldly discovery that has totally redefined life/mankind. Also, I'd think the government would help fund this man's quest to find definitive proof of what's on the other side, at the very least in an attempt to head off (or justify) all the suicides. There are other absurd happenings, but I think I've spent enough time on this dreadful film.

Redford's acting brings a little life to Discovery; however, everything else sinks it to bottom-barrel status. I've "discovered" this film is nothing more than a B-rated romance with Sundance-drenched syfy thriller lipstick on. And you know that saying about pigs and lipstick?
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Missed Opportunity
claudio_carvalho2 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
When the scientist Thomas Harbor (Robert Redford) proves the existence of afterlife, there is a massive wave of suicides on Earth. On the second anniversary of his discovery, his estranged son Will (Jason Segel) travels on a ferry to the island where his father lives. He meets Isla (Rooney Mara), a troubled woman that lost her five-year son, and they have a conversation; then they say goodbye to each other on the arrival. Will's brother Toby (Jesse Plemons) drives him to Thomas's real estate, indeed a colony for troubled people that attempted to suicide. Thomas discloses that he has developed a machine to record what dead people see in the afterlife. When Will walks on the beach, he sees Isla trying to commit suicide, but he saves and brings Isla to his father's house. Soon they fall in love for each other and Will shows her that his father's machine works. But when Isla is murdered by an insane resident, Will uses the machine expecting to meet her in the afterlife. Will he be well succeeded?

"The Discovery" is a romance with an original story and a missed opportunity of making a great film. The performances are top-notch but the screenplay is messy and boring. The idea of spiritual planes in the afterlife and the consequences of the scientific discovery of the afterlife is fascinating and deserved a better screenplay. The final twist is totally unexpected. My vote is five.

Title (Brazil):" The Discovery"
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Worst casting possible!
rosasantosfelix14 January 2018
I believe that casting has a huge part on creating a good movie, that was not one of the cases. Jason Segel?! Really? The boring neighbour who never says anything interesting, the one who talks about the new taxes laws or the weather? No empathy at all with him, all the scenes with him gives me the will to have a break and go check my Instagram. The weirdo brother... Jesse Plemons, boring and very bad acting, please, how interesting would be with Jeremy Davies, the real weirdo-intelectual (!)? It could be an interesting movie, with good actors.
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Anti-climatic Disappointment
CuratingAesthetics18 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
The premise for this movie was really interesting, which is why I decided to watch it. However, the plot was really lacking in the imaginative details I was hoping for. We never hear any stories about the afterlife, or see the afterlife, or learn about how it was discovered. The characters spend the whole movie trying to film what they think is the afterlife, only to disprove the main plot line in the process. We just end up with an anticlimactic story line and an unnecessary love story that did nothing for the overall film. It's only purpose was to give the main character a reason to keep living in a time loop of what was primarily a very mundane moment.
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Just plain weak.
ElessarAndurilS22 April 2017
I watched this because of the genre, hung on in hope that it would improve only to find the cliff at the end of the story. This movie is insulting. The premise that people are so ignorant that a scientists proof (never described) that "some sort of existence" after death would invoke mass suicides is just plain insulting. Oh, then there's the pain of the actual movie. The high point was being interested, it went down hill from there and ended when it just dies a foolish death at the end, and you won't be surprised, moved, or even care by then. I rarely give anything this low a rating, but this is truly a complete waste of time. Just when I thought Netflix productions were generally good, they lay this egg. Ugh!
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renan-jegouzo21 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
it's really an unbelievable and stupid scenario. why peoples will kill themselves because of a hypothetical parallel plane of existence after death ?? it's totally stupid, no ones will do that.. lot's of other peeps believe in other planes called paradise, hell or whatever.. and they never kill themselves by millions for that...
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Archon propaganda promoting the reincarnation soul trap
fawn_jane8 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
"A movie about people who know the afterlife is real!" That grabbed me. But then the movie starts, and we are coolly greeted with drab depressing characters shot in grey overcast scenes. The leading man is your stereotypical uptight smug atheist materialist scientist type. Usually he'd be paired up with the manic-pixie dream girl, but instead the love-interest lady is written as a sarcastic, pretentious overgrown teenager.

I kept watching, because I was curious to see how they'd handle the science-fiction aspect. Usually I'm not one to pick apart science-fiction, but in this case, I'm disappointed in how they didn't even try. Robert Redford talks about it in two sentences, can't even be bothered to invent some smart-sounding jargon. The explanation amounts to basically illogical hand-waving.

But I was still excited, I wanted to see some creative, imaginative depiction of what the afterlife is like. But then, when we finally see it we find the writers went with the most boring, depressing possibility imaginable: The new-agey belief/misinterpretation of ancient mystical religions, often promoted by Hollywood, that the purpose of life is to reincarnate over and over again so we can atone for "our mistakes". My personal belief is, perhaps that is what happens, but that doesn't make it right or ethical. That is not some magical beautiful system of evolution, it's torture and imprisonment in The Matrix. In my view, the key to evolution is love and acceptance of reality; detachment and forgiveness. It's not about controlling reality and trying to "fix" everything so it is just so.

What more is to be said? The movie isn't that bad, but it's kind of paint-by-numbers and full of typical tropes. Most of it unfolds predictably. It's watchable, aside from its terrible themes/value system, but I definitely wouldn't watch it a second time.
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Fascinating concept and great ideas, but not much of a compelling story
Movie_Muse_Reviews20 May 2017
"The Discovery" is built on one of those sci-fi concepts that holds immense promise, to the point that it elevates expectations for the film's quality. After all, you don't make a film about what would happen if an afterlife were scientifically proved without being prepared to meaningfully and intelligently tackle the tremendous questions doing so would raise.

Challenge accepted for Charlie McDowell ("The One I Love"), who with co-writer Justin Lader attempts to do these themes justice on Netflix, which couldn't be a safer space to run this experiment. And that's by and large how "The Discovery" feels, a bit like a movie that wants to play with ideas rather than one that knows exactly the right story to tell to make its notions sink deeply in our in our minds and hearts.

Two years after Dr. Thomas Harbor (Robert Redford) has proved the existence of an afterlife, suicide rates are through the roof. Harbor's son Will (Jason Segel), who is less than fond of how society has reacted to this information, arrives on an island where his father has holed himself up in a mansion compound surrounded by Will's brother Toby (Jesse Plemons) and various survivors of attempted suicide. They are assisting Dr. Harbor in his search for the next level of truth — finding out what the afterlife is.

On his way to the island, Will meets Isla (Rooney Mara), a seemingly troubled woman whom he laters saves from attempting to drown herself. Will brings her to the mansion, where she becomes part of the "cult" and the two grow close as they help Harbor with his machine that attempts to record what the dead see in the afterlife.

The Segel-Mara/Will-Isla dynamic feels almost unsubtly like the romance between Joel and Clementine in the Charlie Kaufman-scripted "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," a similar high-concept indie, only the film is built around that romance. In this film, while you do have a comedian in a dramatic role attempting to keep up with an Oscar- nominated actress, their relationship feels shoe-horned into the narrative.

Segel is simply not capable of the nuance necessary to take this film to the next level. A leading performance in a high-concept mystery-drama-indie like this needs to serve as a bridge between the cerebral, intellectual properties of the film's core concept to the emotional ones. We need help understanding the consequences of a reality that is real in the film's universe but not real to us, and an actor showing us what that would feel like is our only chance. Segel doesn't do that, and it makes "The Discovery" come off as though it's too caught up in its conceit to tell a story worth telling.

It's also a scripting issue. Segel can't be blamed for how ineffectual the Will-Isla romance is. Mara has done romance before ("Carol") and she's really good at it; Segel has his charms. The plot also gets too caught up in its mystery/thriller elements. At times these characters simply turn into detectives trying to answer the question of what happens when we die. The big reveal has an intellectual payoff, but again, it's not as moving as it might have been.

"The Discovery" is a film grown from a fascinating seed of an idea, one that warrants a lot of discussion, but the surrounding story doesn't offer much in the way of informing that discussion other than starting it.

~Steven C

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A Murky Disappointment
atlasmb5 May 2017
"The Discovery" is a big idea sci-fi story along the lines of "Altered States" or "Brainstorm". The big idea is interesting enough to keep one watching, but by itself, without a compelling story, it is not enough to justify an entire film.

Robert Redford plays a researcher who discovers proof that after death part of one's consciousness goes to another plane. News of this discovery has unintended serious consequences, so he disappears from society.

Jason Segel and Rooney Mara plays two characters who become involved in the mystery of the discovery. Both carry serious emotional baggage.

The story about how these characters interact is murky at best. One wants to wait for the big reveal--the explanation that ties everything together and, perhaps, offers some resolution. At first, it looks like the film might deliver, as it becomes an investigation of some confusing evidence, but the half-hearted explanation that follows feels like an off the cuff guess.

Most aspects of this film are lacking, but it's the story that really fails here. After the first third, the remainder of the film is lackluster. And throughout, it feels like the characters have just been awakened and are wondering what they were dreaming about. They plod through the story and we never feel that they are experiencing real, powerful emotions.
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An interesting idea but completely wasted
pissmop2 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
When I began watching this movie I was very excited, I imagined all the directions they could take it. Without ruining anything, the plot is another plane of existence after death was discovered. People suddenly assumed it would be a better place than their current situation.

About 4.5 million people killed themselves because of this. They clearly stated that they did not know what this plane of existence was.I was thinking that maybe the afterlife was hell or some unimaginable nightmare. This would have been extremely interesting. Spoiler: It wasn't

They decided to take it in the lamest way they could. There was a big reveal in the last 40 minutes which completely ruins the tension and mystery.

There is some comedy in the film but the biggest laugh I got was the exposition given by one of the main characters. In the last 10 minutes they try to tie everything up in a neat bow almost as if they ran out of money or foresight shooting the film. It comes absolutely out of nowhere. There is no explanation nor is there any kind of resolution other than an implication that the main character finally finished what he needed to do.

Despite these issues, It's a movie worth watching. Robert Redford, Jason Segel, and Jesse Plemons absolutely kill their roles. Rooney Mara was totally miscast as Isla. At first she seemed great but towards the end I was frustrated in the way she played it. It was likely not her fault but the directors.

Overall: Watchable
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