Disappointment is a word that readily comes to mind when I think of M. Night Shyamalan. What started as a promising career with his first few movies spun quickly into mediocrity and degradation. The Happening was the last film I saw and I am glad I got out before The Last Airbender, Devil, and After Earth, solidifying my decision to abandon the once promising director. Since I have little hope for his redemption after so many years of floundering, I have chosen to not see The Visit in exchange for my newfound niche.
I have decided to review all major releases of Christian films in addition to actual movies if I can afford it. They will become an official part of the regular reviews while Cine-Sadism will serve as an in depth analytical series… that is, when I get back to it. Second up to the chopping block after War Room is 90 Minutes in Heaven. Was it more propagandist dribble or something else?
Before admission I came up with a not-too clever title called 90 Minutes in Hell. While it is the easiest joke one could make, it does not reflect well upon the movie I saw. Where the Christian films I have seen misrepresent various peoples and ideologies to the point of ignorance and insult, 90 Minutes does not have a message built on hatred and inferior beliefs. It is a simple story with simple ideas and only goodwill in mind. I was expecting to loath this movie and found my feelings changed upon viewing. However, a more appropriate title would be 121 Minutes of Boredom.
After a car accident claims his life, Don, played by Hayden Christensen, finds himself in Heaven before he returns to life 90 minutes later. While recovering in the hospital, Don becomes despondent and rejects the help of his friends and wife Eva, played by Kate Bosworth, because he did not want to leave Heaven.
That is a summary for an idea that does not take a whole lot of contemplation. You have the potential for a story about someone going through an existential crisis that would make for a decent movie. That would be the end of it if 90 Minutes had any idea what it was doing.
The problem most likely stems from the fact it is an adaptation of a book. When adapting any property it is important to consider what is filmable and relevant to plot structure and what should be left out. Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, and the works of Stephen King have all been culled of content that would not work in the realm of film with varied results. Though I have not read the book, I get the feeling 90 Minutes had about as many useless scenes, pointless subplots, and redundant dialog as its adaptation.
At one point Eva seeks representation to help pay for Don’s medical bills only to find she has no case within the first hour, which is never revisited. There are scenes of Eva packing, getting drive thru, and pulling the blanket off her bed that served no purpose whatsoever. Characters repeat lines that were said mere minutes ago and have circular conversations that go nowhere. 90 Minutes is so padded it reminds me of a Twilight movie devoid of fun. I could have taken the script and brought it down to an appropriate 100 minutes or even 90 if the production had a sense of humor. I understand the point was to show what Eva went through caring for Don, but that could have been done within 45 minutes or so, as well as Don’s discovery he was pushed out of Heaven to spread the word of its existence, which does not happen until the last 15. So much time is wasted throughout that it takes forever for the movie to get to the point it is trying to make.
Compared to most Christian films, 90 Minutes is made exceptionally well. It shows mostly in the visuals with cleanly shot scenes and thoughtful composition with attention to detail. Actors and set elements are arranged in a consistent manner that looks great on screen. Its simplicity in how it was shot and edited was to its advantage.
The acting was also acceptable. Though George Lucas permanently damaged his career there is still hope for Christensen. He put genuine emotion and effort into Don’s moments of happiness and pain. It goes without saying he also pulls off the mustache rather well, like an American version of Freddy Mercury. Bosworth was fine, but she was not at her best, which did not go well because she was the main focus of the story for the middle chunk.
90 Minutes in Heaven was a surprise. I expected trite Christian propaganda and found a real movie. Its message does not appeal to me, but at least it was not offensive. The failings of the story and writing, however, keep it from being better than those of its genre. If you are a Christian you will like. As for everyone else, do not bother unless you like sitting until your ass falls asleep.