A grieving father looks for answers, and seeks bloody revenge, after his family are killed in a collision between two aircraft.
The relaunch of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s acting career has, it has to be said, thus far felt a long way off auspicious. 2013’s The Last Stand was a passable bit of action fun, but from there on in he has largely limited himself to a succession of appearances in films – typified by Escape Plan with Sylvester Stallone, also from 2013 – whose primary purpose was to knowingly send up his ’80s years. Of course he was effective in these, but it was only in the cruelly overlooked Maggie from 2015 that, rather than just Arnie, we got a glimpse of Arnold Schwarzenegger: an actor capable of nuance and subtlety.
The good news is that Aftermath continues down this path, dials up the intensity ever further, and exhibits what is unquestionably one of Schwarzenegger’s most layered performances ever – and certainly his most vulnerable. The story is based on the true life story of Russian architect Vitaly Kaloyev, who in 2004 murdered the air traffic controller that he (wrongly) held responsible for the death of his family in a plane crash. Here he is renamed Roman, and is now a construction foreman, but is beset by the same tragedy. He must learn of the death of his wife and daughter from a stranger. He will be appalled by the offer of a financial settlement. And he will have to look the man who he has elected to blame for what happened – played here by Scott McNairy – and his wife (Maggie Grace), before doing what he feels he needs to do.
In other words, this is a film full of scenes that would be easy to overplay, but which Schwarzenegger tackles with understated perfection. Truly, this is quite unlike anything else he’s ever done, and brilliantly so. Really, if Liam Neeson can pull off a late-career renaissance as an action man, can Arnie not do the same as a character actor?
After a depressingly anonymous start, the rebirth of Arnie finally hits its stride with a great, low key performance that should get him back to where he belongs in the public consciousness.