If there were a category for the longest, most unique, confusing, ADD-ridden, yet, enjoyable film with awesome scenery at The Golden Globes or Academy Awards… “Cloud Atlas” would win!
My mind is racing all over the place just like the film on how I can go about working on the most complex review I’ve ever written in my four years of film critiquing.
For starters, I’d like to say this is a film one needs to mentally, emotionally, and intellectually prepare for. It’s a cinematic ride that takes us between time periods tied into one – the one you’re actually living as we speak.
The film is an adaptation from David Mitchell's mind-boggling 2004 best-seller. Did I read it? Of course not – with the exception of some deep scenes, I barely found myself interested in the film during the first hour. I think had I attempted to read the book, I might have contemplated poking my eyes out with a threading needle or stick my head in a microwave.
It’s not to say the film is horrible – it isn’t. I just feel there was a lot mashed into a film I think should have had a better approach. It is one of the most ambitious pieces ever, yet, somewhat hard hitting when shoved upon your optic-nerves and into your brain.
It has wondrous imagery of fantasy and moments that crash-land. It can be interestingly engaging, yet, frustrating. It jumps from drama to low key segments, and lastly hits just about every tone possible known to the human race. “Cloud Atlas" is most definitely different from anything you will see this year!.
Directors-writers Lana and Andy Wachowski ("Matrix" trilogy) and Tom Tykwer ("Run, Lola, Run") certainly deserve a medal of valor for having the sack to piece such a complicated film during an era where most audiences thrive off simple settings and scenarios.
“Cloud Atlas” is a big chunk of time in a lot of different places.
Aboard a sailing slave-ship in the South Pacific during the 1850s, a young American lawyer (Jim Sturgess) develops a defiant attitude towards an evil doctor (Tom Hanks), only to be saved by a slave (David Gyasi).
In the mid-1930s, a famous composer (Jim Broadbent) takes on a young gay man (Ben Whishaw) under his wing whose own work overshadows that of the composer.
In1970s, we’re taken to San Francisco, where an investigative reporter (Halle Berry) unveils a plot pertaining to a nuclear power plant (overseen by Hugh Grant) with the help of two scientists (James D'Arcy and Tom Hanks), only to find herself on the run.
Fast forward to contemporary times in London, a publisher (Broadbent) finds himself confined by his vengeful brother (Grant) to an old-folks’ home that no one ever leaves.
Then (this is one of my favorites) we’re in the year 2144 in a city known as Neo-Seoul, where a female replicant (Doona Bae) goes rogue against the system that created her after she's rescued by a rebel leader (Sturgess).
And lastly, in a post-apocalyptic world of the far future, where the movie begins and ends, a goat herder (Hanks) meets a survivor of an advanced civilization (Berry).
Several links tie this all together, but that I cannot reveal. It is interesting how it’s puzzled all together making ONE film out of SIX different eras, encompassing humanity encountering each other in the past, present and beyond.
While reading, as you might have imagined, the film's creators bind this piece together by having principal actors appear as different characters in each of the stories, often pan caked in layers of makeup and prosthetic devices. Some – Tom Hanks and Hugo Weaving -- turn up recognizable in all six; others, less so.
Sometimes it works. Hanks has a blast playing a hero in one role and a whacky writer who has it in for a critic, and acts on lunatic-based impulse. Weaving clearly enjoys being a villain in all six. Other times, it fails. When Sturgess and others are made up to look Asian – which is pretty border-line offensive.
Of all the craziness displayed in the film, there are moments that stood out in my mind, body, and soul – one being the following quote: “Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others. Past and present. And by each crime, and every kindness, we birth our future.” – Sonmi-451
Overall, if this film didn’t have the cast of heavy-hitting Hollywood meat, along with some interesting dialog and links that tie human-nature together, it would have suffered beyond anything anyone could imagine. I think it’s worth a watch, but I find myself iffy on recommending this to anyone.
Grade: C+ / Genre: Adaptation, Drama, Sci-Fi/Fantasy / Rated: R / Run Time: 2 Hrs. 45 Min.
Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Ben Whishaw, Susan Sarandon, Hugo Weaving
Directed by: Lana and Andy Wachowski, Tom Tykwer