The Netflix Sci-Fi Thriller Is A Star-Studded Secret Gem

By Robert Scucci | Updated

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Of all the genres we celebrate, science fiction resonates with viewers the most because of its uncanny ability to ask difficult philosophical questions while exploring all the possible answers from a safe and detached distance. 2017’s The Discovery asks questions about the afterlife and whether proving its existence would be to the benefit or detriment of humanity. Though The Discovery attempts to give us some answers, it leaves us with even more questions upon its conclusion.

The Discovery On Netflix

The Discovery wastes no time establishing what’s at stake, and we first meet Thomas Harbor (Robert Redford) through old news footage in which he’s interviewing the press about his discovery of the afterlife.

Through the interview, we learn that Harbor’s discovery immediately led to mass suicides because the existence of an afterlife suggests that there’s something better waiting for people who are currently suffering through their daily existence.

During the broadcast, which took place six months after the discovery was made, a film crew member shoots himself in the head for everybody viewing at home to see.

A Chance Meeting

The Discovery

Approaching the second anniversary of the discovery, Thomas’ son, Will (Jason Segel), decides to pay his father a visit so he can put a stop to his research.

Over four million people have committed suicide to reach the afterlife, and the numbers continue to climb with no sign of letting up.

Will meets a woman named Isla (Rooney Mara) on the ferry ride over to his father’s home, and can’t shake the feeling that he’s met her before.

Something Doesn’t Add Up

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Will’s brother, Toby (Jesse Plemons), brings him to the remote compound where Thomas is pushing forward with his research and developing a new machine that will hopefully be able to record the afterlife.

Will reconnects with Isla after saving her from suicide by drowning at a nearby beach, and they share a room at the compound where Thomas works tirelessly to perfect his machine.

At this point in The Discovery, the machine is recording something that resembles the afterlife, but something doesn’t quite add up.

A Moral Dilemma

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Constantly toying with the notion that time and consciousness aren’t linear, The Discovery presents a moral dilemma that can only be fully explored through the narrative constructs of science fiction.

In the case of Thomas Harbor’s research, we’re faced with the reality that a groundbreaking and eye-opening discovery may not be worth its cost in casualties, even if it ultimately leads to a greater good over a long period of time.

After all, if everybody decides to exit the mortal realm because there’s a more desirable reality on the other side, then why bother sticking around to make the world a better place?

Concepts Of Memory And Consciousness

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Like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Discovery also makes you question the very concept of memory and consciousness as we know it. If everything we experience only exists inside of our own heads, then which version of reality is the correct one? Should multiple planes of existence exist concurrently, there’s no clear-cut answer.

Despite The Discovery’s ambitious premise, critics walked away frustrated by the film’s inability to stick the landing. Due to the film’s willingness to ask more questions than it was willing to answer, The Discovery received mostly negative reviews, resulting in a 46 percent critical score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Stream The Discovery On Netflix

the discovery

While critics and audiences alike praised the ensemble cast for their performance in The Discovery, their on-screen chemistry alone wasn’t enough to satisfy viewers with an answer to the existential question that was established at its outset.

But if you think you can find a hidden resolution to this ethical conundrum that the critics may not be considering, you can stream this sci-fi thriller on Netflix right now.