What happens after we die? It’s a question we’ve all asked at some point in our lives and in ‘The Discovery’, a scientist called Thomas (Robert Redford) has found the answer. The film plays out like an intriguing Black Mirror episode, with its roots firmly in sci-fi waters but at times it lacks flair and drags to the ending which ultimately saves the film from mediocrity.
The story starts with Thomas informing the world that there is in fact an afterlife, broadcast to the world for all to see. Cut short by one of the camera crew committing suicide, the startling beginning shifts its focus a year and a half in the future to our two protagonists on board a ferry. Will (Jason Segel) a sceptic, and Isla (Rooney Mara) an optimist in the face of the afterlife. As suicides across the globe continue to rise, the two characters, together with scientist Thomas, try to discover once and for all, what happens when we die and exactly what happens in the afterlife.
Whilst the story is full of questions and interesting visual titbits, it does feel dragged out at times and the film’s length is its ultimate downfall. This is a film that would have benefited from being a short film or even an hour long like an extended episode of a TV show rather than a full length film. The actors do the best with the material they have but no one really stands out except maybe Jason Segel who’s subtle performance toward the latter end of the film was really well done.
Speaking of endings, too often an ending ruins what’s otherwise a solid film but here the ending is beautiful, shocking and ultimately satisfying. It wraps the story up nicely and leaves enough questions answered that the average pacing and story development throughout the film can actually be forgiven somewhat for this. This really is a film that nails two of its three acts. The opening 15 minutes and the final 25 minutes or so are perfect. It’s just such a pity that the rest of the film never picks up from its deliberately slow pace.
Overall, ‘The Discovery’ is an intriguing and thought provocative film that is worth a watch if only for its beginning and ending. Both are done masterfully but I can’t help but feel that reducing the run time of the film and a little more polish in the script during the middle section would have done this film wonders. If you like science fiction or are a fan of the weird and wonderful, do check this out but be prepared for a long slog through the middle of the film as it slows to a snail’s pace.