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Times of India
Hit by a personal tragedy, a successful advertising executive withdraws from professional life and writes letters to the universe. When the universe starts replying, he begins to realise that beauty may be found in some rather dark places.
Resident poet-philosopher of a New York advertising firm, Howard (Will Smith) tells his employees the three magic things that effect every human being on an emotional level are love, time and death. He urges them to think of those when hawking products to the public, as his senior associates Whit (Edward Norton), Claire (Kate Winslet) and Simon (Michael Peña) look on, smiling warmly at his wisdom. Cut to three years later, Howard is an emotional wreck, after the death of his six-year old daughter. He withdraws inwards, and as his ad firm borders on the brink of a collapse, he writes letters to the universe addressing them to love, time and death.
In a bid to have Howard relinquish his toxic hold over the company, his three associates play a trick on him. They hire actors to become the three concepts to meet Howard and freak him out so he can be declared mentally unstable, thus saving the company. Enter Amy (Keira Knightley) as love, Raffi (Jacob Lattimore) as time and Bridgette (Helen Mirren) as death.
‘Collateral Beauty’ is a tearjerker heavy on emotions. But at times, it gets a little overbearing and even the dry humour employed makes the suffering feel endless. You hope that when the three actors enter Howard's life, there would be some comic relief. But philosophy flies thick and fast, from minor characters as well. Redemption for viewers is in the form of the unlikely relationships that develop between Amy and Whit, Raffi and Claire and Bridgette and Simon. Seeing that thread unravel through the film is a joy to watch. Their conversations play out like revelations through crisp dialogue.
The message being – when you accept your losses you can move beyond suffering and pain, down a path of redemption which is a thing of beauty. However, the play on the term ‘collateral damage’ fails to hit home as the movie takes a long-winded route to get there.
Hugh Jackman was originally supposed to star but dropped out due to scheduling conflicts was replaced by Will Smith
A role was offered to Rachel McAdams but a deal could not be reached due to scheduling conflicts with McAdams' Doctor Strange (2016).
Will Smith praised the whole cast by saying, "If we are all judged by the company we keep ... then I want this cast with me for life!"
The movie cast includes two Oscar winners, Kate Winslet and Helen Mirren, and three Oscar nominees: Will Smith, Edward Norton, and Keira Knightley.
This will be the first time Naomie Harris and Keira Knightley have worked together since Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007).
Rooney Mara was originally supposed to star but dropped out for reasons unknown
Alfonso Gomez-Rejon exited the project over creative differences with studio New Line Cinema