What if someone proved there is an Afterlife – and it’s better than the life you have now? How would you react? That’s the premise of the new Netflix sci-fi drama “The Discovery”. Overall, this is an intriguing film, though one that goes so far “out-there” that, ultimately, it leaves you with more questions than answers (or maybe that was the point).
Jason Segel plays Will, the oldest son of Dr. Thomas Harbor (Robert Redford), the man behind the incredible breakthrough on life after death. In the two years following “the discovery” over four million people have committed suicide based solely on the belief that they’re going to a better place.
Will, who’s a neurologist, is devastated by what’s happening, and that his dad hasn’t taken responsibility for it. He travels to his father’s remote laboratory/castle where dozens of followers are living to try to stop the madness of what he sees as nothing more than a cult. Will’s younger brother is also there, assisting in his father’s work. And soon Will is back in the family business, motivated by some dark secrets, and by Isla, a “lost soul” who he meets and brings into the inner circle. She’s played by Rooney Mara. The two connect, romantically, amidst all the death, sorrow and literal mind-bending that’s going on around them. This is the weakest aspect of the movie.
Is Dr. Harbor a mad scientist or a savior? Is his discovery legitimate or a hoax – and is it worth dying to find out? “The Discovery” raises a lot of new hypotheses about what happens to us after we die, and if we should know that answer ahead of time. Redford does a convincing job portraying the stubborn, stuck-in-his-ways old man, whose motivations are not exactly clear.
While the moral/theological themes that “The Discovery” presents are quite intriguing, there are elements of the script (besides the romance) that are clumsy and awkward (including scenes in which Will and Isla steal a body from a local morgue – and then bring it back).
Reminiscent of his work in “The End of the Tour”, Segel shows that he can handle thought-provoking, dialogue-driven drama. Mara’s Isla is fairly subdued throughout, so she doesn’t get to go as deep into the character as you would like.
I was fully with “The Discovery” from the start, but the final 10 minutes definitely shake things up, forcing you to question what came earlier. The ending is jarring, forceful and most of all confusing. Once you think you’ve pieced it all together, you realize a valid argument can be made that the writers could’ve gotten from Point A to Point B more efficiently and effectively. But it’s still a memorable trip.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “The Discovery” gets a C+.
Running Time: 101 min.