Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Doona Bae, Susan Sarandon, Keith David, James D’Arcy, Xun Zhou
Directed by: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Written By: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Rating: R (US) Running Time: 2 hr 52 min
This film is big, sprawling and complex. It shouldn’t work but the collective efforts from writers/directors Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski, have turned Cloud Atlas into a very unusual but comprehensible epic.
When I saw this film for the first time I wasn’t expecting the scope or the odd mixture of genres, locations and time periods. All of which was presented in a seemingly haphazard manner. It bugged me like a puzzle and my mind kept lingering on it. It has an almost dreamlike quality to it as it presents six intertwined stories from around the globe spanning a few hundred years. Connections and themes all get tangled up and we have some of Hollywood’s best actors playing multiple parts and it demanded to be studied more.
I recognized Cloud Atlas as quality film-making but didn’t know what to make of the story so I read the book, and this really helped!
The six stories are linked and very unusually, each are cut in half. We get presented 1 through 6 then 6 through 1! It’s jarring at first but there is a logic and you get to see how the main characters reflect, repeat and develop in an almost spiritual way. There seems to be a reincarnated character throughout represented by a comet shaped birthmark that helps us see that these tales are all part of one huge story. The film goes further to splinter moments from the stories and edit them to seem all concurrent, like we are all living in a parallel universe.
This is most distracting on first viewing and the birthmark angle isn’t really focused on. To take Tom Hanks as an example, one of his characters is a horrible murdering thief and continues mainly as a horrible person, but he starts to become aware and tries to change and redeem himself over the different stories and characters to become a better person.
So the birthmark aspect no longer links one character, as different actors play this one soul, it’s the side characters in the book that also go through change, so it’s richer. The differing periods and styles all get filmed in a superb fluid and cinematic way as to make an overall unifying style. Betraying the nearly 3 hour running time, the film flies along, cutting in an out of the stories at a fast pace and sometimes flitting through all 6 stories so quickly the time and locations seem to blur and become one big story – which it is. You will follow it, but it does help to see it twice, but ideally, read the book in-between!
So we have an English book made with German money by two American siblings and the help of a German director. It was filmed in various locations such as Hawaii, England, South Korea and Scotland (replacing Belgium from the book). The film is book ended by the futuristic story; which goes a little further than the book and is actually more satisfying in the final moment – but I won’t ruin that!
From the directors of The Matrix and Run Lola Run! If you want a real meaty epic film that requires involvement and concentration, whilst getting great cinema and spectacle, this film delivers in spades and will stay with you and maybe even make you see it twice for further appreciation.
This is a story of epic scale, so a theater screen would bring out the best in this film. At home a HD viewing is recommended. Viewing this on a small hand-held device will not serve the film well.
The action scenes and whole imagined future involving the clone called Sonmi 451 are really cool and the escape by portable bridge is visually stunning.
Stewart’s Two Cents:
This is a dizzying ride through six stories each set in their own time period. Each of the top drawer cast play several parts, and in some cases are completely unrecognizable. To be honest, I haven’t read the book, and I found the film pretty incomprehensible. That strangely did not stop me enjoying this as I found it fascinating to watch.