Humans have an innate fascination with things they cannot see or can’t understand. We don’t seem capable of just living, just getting on, we have to learn, progress, tinker, meddle. On the one hand, obviously, this is good, it has brought us great discoveries, on the other hand, perhaps some discoveries are best left undiscovered.
The Discovery begins with Thomas, Robert Redford (Pete’s Dragon, Captain American: The Winter Soldier), being interviewed about his discovery that the afterlife has been scientifically proven to exist. Queue a raft of suicides as people take their own lives in an attempt to get ‘there’, without really knowing what or where ‘there’ is, just in the hope, or belief, that it’s better than the here and now.
Fast forward a couple of years and the suicide rate is topping out at over four-million. Will, Jason Segel (The Muppets, Bad Teacher) sets out to ask his father Thomas, who has since disappeared from public view, to put a stop to everything, tell everyone it was a lie, stop the suicides. Along the way he prevents Isla, Rooney Mara (Lion, Kubo And The Two Strings), from committing suicide and finds his father and brother, Jason Plemons (Black Mass, Bridge of Spies), working on a way of recording what the afterlife looks like, what actually happens, whilst running a sort of sanctuary come-cult.
Writers Justin Lader (first feature) and writer/director Charlie McDowell (The One I Love, Silicon Valley (TV)) can be very proud of The Discovery. As you sit and watch you are absorbed into this strange world they’ve crafted. It’s one of bleak, wintery visuals, very few people except those we are concerned with and stellar performances all round. But, as you continue to watch, as you are dragged further in, they hit you with the twist and suddenly you’re watching a sci-fi movie and trying to grasp what’s going on.
I’m sure there will be those of you, or your friends, who will claim to have seen the twist coming, spotted it from the start, the usual. However, I’d pity those people as they don’t get to indulge in what is a truly wonderful twist reveal, a real mind-bender. Sure, it’s roots are in things like Flatliners, Total Recall, Inception and The Sixth Sense, but that’s not a bad thing. Not a bad thing at all.
Isaacs puts in a first-class performance as Will, a non-believer in his father’s discovery and still blaming his father for their mother’s death. Plemons plays the weird, slightly slow, brother very well and Redford puts in a performance that makes you believe the apple hasn’t fallen too far from the tree. He’s in command at all times and a creepy, almost showman, leader of this strange ‘cult’ he’s created. Mara too is to be commended. Her performance as Isla, a woman who has lost much and blames herself, is considerate and beautifully thought-out.
If there are problems it’s that it can feel a little slow at times and some of the supporting cast get a back-story, others are simply there and we know little about them. As mentioned, the twist borrows heavily from films that have gone before which can dampen the affect slightly, but only slightly.
A point arises in the film when Isla says that people will eventually start killing other people and claiming to be ‘saving’ them, sending them on to a better life. It’s a thought-provoking point in what is a wonderfully crafted film with great performances, it will make you wonder why we don’t see Isaacs in more movies. It puts the spotlight on our insatiable thirst for knowledge and how it’s not all good.