The Discovery (2017)
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Critic Reviews for The Discovery
An undeniably ambitious film that only becomes increasingly risk-taking as it develops.
The Discovery is poised to dive off the deep end and follow Will as he pioneers new layers of space and time, but the film lends him a trail map that deprives him - and us - the satisfaction of finding some measure of truth for himself.
An ambitious, convoluted genre tightrope act that kept me thoroughly engrossed, even if I'm not entirely sure it works on the level it wants to.
Though "The Discovery" starts out with a great premise, its mystery dissipates over a somewhat tepid course as the concept ultimately heads in a direction we've seen many times before ...
Audience Reviews for The Discovery
DO YOU BELIEVE IN LIFE AFTER LIFE? - My Review of THE DISCOVERY (3 1/2 Stars) Director Charlie McDowell (son of Mary Steenburgen and Malcolm McDowell) and his co-writer, Justin Lader favor a low key approach to science fiction. Their first feature, THE ONE I LOVE, explored the concept of a parallel universe but limited it to an isolated "enchanted cottage". Elizabeth Moss and Mark Duplass brought an air of charm and mystery to their performances which culminated in an ambiguous final moment. Three years later, they've brought us THE DISCOVERY, a feature coming to Netflix on March 31st, and despite its somewhat wider scope, they've kept their storytelling intimate. It's a distinguishing yet intentionally drab approach to filmmaking, and your enjoyment of it will depend on your taste for a lack of spectacle. ARRIVAL, with its quiet beauty, trafficked in a similar aesthetic although it feels hugely epic when stacked up against this film. THE DISCOVERY opens with a stunning sequence in which Thomas Harbor (Robert Redford), a reclusive scientist, sits down for a first time interview with Steenburgen since proving the existence of an afterlife. In a beautifully realized exploration of this concept, we learn that his findings have led to millions of worldwide suicides. Why continue living a miserable life if something better lies ahead? Harbor, pardon the pun, harbors no guilt over this turn of events. The scene immerses you instantly into its world, one that looks very much like the one we currently inhabit, and takes its ideas to a shocking place. Immediately after, we're on a nearly empty ferry headed to Rhode Island. Harbor's son Will (Jason Segel) wants to put an end to his father's experimentations and cult-like atmosphere on his secluded compound. On the boat, he meets Isla (Rooney Mara), a prickly, anti-social sort who leaves a lasting impression on Will before going their separate ways. It should come as no surprise that their lives will intersect again. I mean, it's Rooney Mara. She doesn't show up for one scene boat cameos at this stage of her career! Once reunited with his father, Will becomes invested in discovering the truth behind this afterlife his father has identified. Is it another plane of existence? Is it Heaven? Hell? Or something else entirely? Much like Amy Adams experienced in ARRIVAL, the film plays with the concepts of a linear timeline, fate, and how they affect Will and his father's decisions. As such, THE DISCOVERY asks the big questions but keeps things small. McDowell and Lader again operate in a limited space and relish ambiguity. At the screening I attended, the filmmakers said they wanted Harbor to have the credibility a star like Redford brings to the role or else it could have felt like a mad scientist, Doc Brown kind of performance. I agree, but I found Redford's sane approach to his character a little flat and expositional at times. Regardless, it went a long way towards making me believe in the concept. Although he's a good physical match to play Redford's son, Segel's performance also feels a little undercooked. I appreciated the clinical nature of the writing and acting, but I didn't get a case of "the feels". Only Mara managed to move me with her mercurial performance. It's a tough choice to sacrifice heart and soul when trying to create a believable universe, and THE DISCOVERY mostly works within this framework. It goes for the jugular in the final act, but stimulated my brain more than my tear ducts. ARRIVAL managed to get both going for me while exploring similar themes. With a muted overall look and quiet confidence, THE DISCOVERY will appeal to fans of Brit Marling's ANOTHER EARTH or THE OA, both of which ground their science fiction in a gritty reality. It's a little dull, but has a certain water cooler appeal. There are worse things to do than argue afterwards about suicide, faith, and the universal wish for a redo of one's life.
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