Angel Studios (the makers of Sound of Freedom) newest effort delves into the After Life, but does little to convince those skeptical.
PLOT: Based on real near-death experiences, After Death explores the afterlife with the guidance of New York Times bestselling authors, medical experts, scientists, and survivors that shed a light on what awaits us.
REVIEW: Angel Studios’ Sound of Freedom absolutely took the world by storm earlier this year with its take on human trafficking. While there was plenty of controversy surrounding the tactics being used, it clearly resulted in a lot of money. After Death is the next project to come from those producers, and it takes a vastly different approach. This is a documentary that takes a look at various survivors and their near death experiences. More specifically, the moment they died and what happened before they were brought back to life. As you can imagine, this is absolutely geared towards those who are more spiritual.
The survivors mostly have interesting stories that are often harrowing. But the format of “survivor tells their story, with a little bit at the end about a weird experience” is repeated ad nauseam. At a certain point it almost feels like trauma porn as people are reliving these moments with emotional difficulty. And the narrative will jarringly cut from someone before it really feels like their story has concluded. Even still, I appreciated how it was presented, even if some of the people are a tad to performative, breaking the reality of the situation a bit. In particular, I enjoyed the different scientists that were using statistics and empirical evidence to make their point.
On a technical level, After Death is extremely well done. Director of Photography Austin Straub shot an absolutely gorgeous film. This is genuinely one of the better documentaries I can remember from a cinematography standpoint. Given the subject matter, they’re really able to lean into the beautiful, heavenly landscape that earth can provide. But they also appear to use chemical reactions filmed at a microscopic level in order to show fantastical things. Many times it reminded me of Darren Aronofsky‘s The Fountain. It makes for a really fascinating experience.
Maybe the main issue is that I’m not a man of faith so I was often just eye-rolling throughout After Death. I tried to be open minded but I’m a very logical person who has already looked into scientific reasoning behind fantastical events. A lot of these experiences can be blamed on the DMT released by the brain when a person is near death. Yet this phenomenon isn’t even broached. I think the biggest thing these people have in common is the miracle that they had medical personnel that were able to bring them back from death. It seems as though the wrong lessons are being learned here. Although, it’s encouraging that nearly everyone who came back, wanted to be a better person.
Despite not really believing anything going on in the movie, it’s hard not to appreciate the approach they take. The people are constantly saying how they want the viewer to be skeptical. Unfortunately, a lot of this kind of goes down the drain with the whole end credits portion, where the filmmakers are talking to the camera. This is where their agenda becomes very clear and they really start pushing more of the faith narrative. I get it, this is a religious production company, so there’s always going to be a level of that. But the film is at its most interesting when it takes a more scientific approach to the events.
These producers are implementing the same “pay it forward” approach that they took with Sound of Freedom. While I won’t get into the sketchy logistics of that, it’s an approach they seem adamant to return to. Whether it works to the same level of their previous effort remains to be seen but it seems off to a good start. The religious folks that are likely to see After Death, will likely have their faith reaffirmed. But unfortunately there’s just not enough convincing information to turn skeptics. It’s the epitome of “preaching to the choir.”
AFTER DEATH IS PLAYING IN THEATERS ON OCTOBER 27TH, 2023.
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/after-death-review/