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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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This Movie Just Didn't Connect With Me
sddavis6323 August 2019
I have to admit that this story intrigued me, but ultimately never really connected with me. I start this by saying that I am a person of faith. I believe that there is more to this life than the relatively few years we live on this earth. I believe that somehow and in some form our consciousness transcends this material world. But it's at the level of belief; of faith. Although I was intrigued by the idea of a scientist who manages to prove the existence of an afterlife, once I started watching this I realized that I don't want anyone to ever be able to do that. The frantic search for "proof" seems misplaced when investigating such a concept, which is probably why I have little interest in things like Near death Experiences or ghost stories or the like. An "afterlife" exists as a belief or as a hope. I neither need nor want the mystery surrounding the possibility to be revealed. So once this movie started I began (quickly) processing all that and I realized that the story just didn't connect with me on any truly meaningful level.

Setting aside my philosophical or religious views, though, what did I think about the actual movie. Scientist Thomas Harbor has "proved" the existence of an afterlife and the reaction to his discovery is a rash of suicides as people become desperate to experience it. His son Will (Jason Segel) is a neurosurgeon who disapproves of his father's work but who visits his father's home, connecting with Isla (Rooney Mara) on the way and taking her with him and reconnecting with his brother Tobi (Jesse Plemons) at the estate where his father is continuing his experiments and has gathered a sort of cult-like following around him. Thomas, having proven that an afterlife exists, has now become obsessed with trying to prove what it's like and what happens. More or less, that's the story.

It's a sci-fi sort of plot with a little bit of potential. I thought the performances were a bit uninspired and uneven. Redford was fine, although to me he seemed a bit lacking in passion for a scientist who seemed to have achieved the goal of his life's work. Segel's Will confused me. For a guy who was supposedly opposed to his father's research he certainly threw himself into it. Mara's Isla intrigued me a bit. I wanted to know her story. What I didn't really care for (although I fully expected it) was the romantic relationship that evolved between them. It seemed forced. It just didn't work for me. The "twist" in the last few scenes surprised me as the movie took on a sort of "Groundhog Day" angle, so I'll give the story credit for that. But overall it just wasn't a movie that established a big connection with me. (4/10)
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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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Nothing to discover, move on.
tim-93516 April 2017
As an antidote to gruesome zombie apocalypse explosions, this low key drama centres on that same ancient human obsession, that death cannot be the end. Esteemed, now ageing, Dr Thomas Harber (Robert Redford) has told the word he has proof of consciousness after death. The result is that those gullible enough to believe with little proof, combined with either abject failure in this life or overwhelming desire for rapture in the next, bump themselves off with abandon.

Little wall clocks record the suicides as the film progresses as a reminder of the impersonal fallout of Harber's hypothesis.

The great Doctor's son, Will Harber (Jason Segal), travels to visit his estranged father by means of a deserted ferry. Deserted except for a strange yet beguiling fellow traveller, Isla (Rooney Mara), who not only provides the love interest but also the Watson foil to Will's Sherlock search for the truth.

I'll leave it for you to divine the truth of Life After Death: The Great Debate; be sure, this film provides no answers.

There are some cute touches, fired off scattergun style to evoke childhood memories in the viewer: there are some excruciating more than moments when reason is as dead as some of the cadavers in this sci-fi not so shocker. Don't expect bolts of lightning breathing life into the moribund. It would take more than a Tesla coil to enliven the mud from which the script is crafted.

It is a small ensemble piece showing little action in a claustrophobic set. Even the sea views emphasise the limited vision.

So much more could have been developed from this idea. It is Frankenstein by the sea on Vallium.
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Kept watching because I wanted to like it.
travinorbit-7273421 March 2019
Watching a movie made around Jason Segel (playing mopey and morose to boot) is like trying to start a fire under a wet blanket. There was an occasional spark, an idea or twist, that reinvigorated a hope for something more. An appealingly moody colour palate, cold blues and greys. Interesting premise/s. Rooney Mara was great, as usual, bringing charisma to an otherwise desolate and charmless experience that inevitably led me to write this. As mentioned by so many people before me: what a disappointing waste of a phenomenal idea. This could have been something riveting. Perhaps my reception was tainted by Jason Segel's lack of likability. Is it my fault? In any case, I don't care. I'll have completely forgotten about this movie before I finish this...
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An interesting premise, plagued by unlikable characters
siderite11 February 2018
This movie is another take on the popular motif of the afterlife. This time, it all starts from a point where it has been proven some part of us goes somewhere when we die and we get what this does to people. It was interesting, it raised some questions about the nature of personal reality and regret, but it was difficult to like almost any of the characters in the film. The "regular guy" lead is just a selfish and self centered ass, while the woman he falls for is almost as bad, the dad is awful, the mother horrible. The only normal person there was his brother, who of course has a simple supporting role. Robert Redford's character was equally obnoxious, but in his case I think it was necessary, as the scientist who apparently thinks only of his work, hurting the people around him.

Bottom line: you work through a lot of painful scenes of obvious attempts at video art and deep meaning, which by their very nature are neither artistic nor meaningful, only to get to the somewhat interesting twist at the end. The movie is watchable, but nothing beyond average.
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Disappointing, due to the extremely promising premise and setup.
Hellmant10 January 2018
'THE DISCOVERY': Three and a Half Stars (Out of Five)

A sci-fi romantic drama about a world where an afterlife has been scientifically proven, and how that knowledge drastically affects society. It was directed by Charlie McDowell, and it was written by McDowell and Justin Lade (the duo also teamed on 2014's 'THE ONE I LOVE'). The film stars Jason Segel, Rooney Mara, Robert Redford, Jesse Plemons, Riley Keough and Ron Canada. It's received mixed reviews from critics, and it was released by Netflix through their streaming site. I found the movie itself to be a little disappointing, due to the extremely promising premise and setup.

The story takes place two years after 'the discovery of an afterlife', by Thomas Harbor (Redford). The scientific proof of an afterlife has caused an extremely dramatic increase in suicides. Thomas's son, Will (Segel), blames his father for the high suicide rate. He travels to see him, at an isolated mansion, where Thomas is doing more research on his findings. Will meets a suicidal woman on his trip, named Isla (Mara), who he later prevents from killing herself. He then brings Isla to his father's mansion, and the two assist him in his research there. The whole time Will is extremely skeptical about the damage they're doing to society, with these new findings.

The movie is extremely dark and depressing, for almost it's entire running length. Like I said, the idea for the film is really intriguing, and fascinating, but it's definitely not fun watching it play out. The performances are decent, and the climax is somewhat interesting, and unpredictable, as well. I had hoped for a lot more from it though, when I started watching it.
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Shyamalan does "Brainstorm", kinda-sorta...
steveo1228 April 2017
A corporate/committee attempt to construct 'profound' entertainment without the slightest hint of an organic connection between any of the moving parts. The 'romance' is Rooney Mara doing her best working with human green-screen Jason Segel. I blame his presence, along with the judgment of whoever thought he was a good idea, for keeping this in the shallow end of the pool. At least he wasn't Vince Vaughn.
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Starts well, terrible later on
demetis8 September 2018
One of the worst movies I've seen despite the good actors. The movie starts really well and then becomes a complete waste of time and almost completely meaningless. The raw material was there for this to develop into something amazing, and it's doubly more frustrating that it hasn't.
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Opens the doors of perception and potential meaningful conversations
slpcolor1 April 2017
This is a fine effort to explore topics that are largely in a silo. Our cultures is effected by intellectual apathy and intransigence. In this film there are cult mechanics depicted with philosophical and religious implications that balance against the human drive to make known what is unknowable. Hollywood tends to avoid such properties and I appreciated the performances of Segel, Mara and Redford to boldly unfold this tale. What is an irritating askew is the myopic and pedantic attempt to solely read one's mental conventions into this and every other attempt at this subject matter. However the film arrives beautifully at the basic facts that we create our own realities, our own perception of reality and that we agree to share this reality as such. This reality is where it is better to work out our issues and face ourselves in the here and now, "than fly to some "other" that we know not of..."
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Boring and mostly inaudible
crystal-warwick2 December 2019
I could hardly understand what the actors were saying in a lot of the scenes because of the music in the background. I turned my volume up so loud the score was rattling the house but the voices were still mumbled. Irritating.
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Terrible casting
jcartmill2-120 September 2018
Worst acting award goes to...Jason Segel. Segel looks terrified acting with the great Redford, who phones in his role. Lifeless, silly plot.
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Not worth wasting time on it
gangstax27 September 2021
They could have done so much with the basic idea of the movie and they decided to do an extremely boring movie with characters so shallow that you'll never care about the slightest.
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