Scientific research confirms the existence of the afterlife, prompting a rash of suicides as people give up on their hopeless earthly existence to experience this other plane of reality. That's the set-up for the Netflix movie The Discovery, a darkly romantic sci-fi mystery starring Rooney Mara, Jason Segel, Robert Redford and Riley Keough.
The first trailer for The Discovery focuses on the two leads, Mara and Segel, playing a pair of lovers grappling with the strange new world unleashed in the wake of science's revelations about the afterlife. That trailer was effective in implying all sorts of sinister, mysterious goings-on, while setting up the complex, tragic relationship between Segel and Mara. A new preview takes a different angle, focusing less on the love story and more on the scientist at the center of the mystery.
Netflix's second trailer for The Discovery (see above) zeroes in on Robert Redford's character Thomas Harbor, the man responsible for opening Pandora's Box through his research on the afterlife. As with the first trailer, this second glimpse of the movie promises that something sinister lurks beneath Harbor's discovery. What is Harbor really up to? What does he think about the dire consequences of his revelations? Is he good or evil or just a spectator to something he unwittingly set in motion and is now powerless to stop?
Written by Justin Lader and Charlie McDowell and directed by McDowell, The Discovery first dropped at the Sundance Film Festival in January and received a fairly positive response. McDowell's previous film, The One I Love also took viewers on a strange science-fiction trip while focusing on the relationship between a man and woman, grappling with personal problems. The Discovery was originally set to star Nicholas Hoult as the son of Redford's Harbor, but Hoult had to drop out and was replaced by Jason Segel (Hoult still made it to Netflix with his war film, Sand Castles).
The premise of The Discovery may remind some of the early '90s horror film Flatliners, which dealt with researchers flirting with the line between life and death and accidentally unlocking a supernatural threat. There's a built-in intrigue factor any time a movie or TV show takes on the afterlife, but the trick is figuring out how the characters should interact with that other world. Some movies solve this issue in a satisfying way while others - like Flatliners - do not (maybe the Flatliners sequel will do a better job).
The two trailers for The Discovery promise an ambitious movie that's trying to blend a lot of different elements, from sci-fi to the supernatural to mystery to romance to philosophy. We'll find out if The Discovery ultimately succeeds in paying off its interesting premise when the movie debuts on Netflix on March 31st, 2017.