Cloud Atlas

  • Title:  Cloud Atlas
  • Directors:  Tom Wykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
  • Date:  2012
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers
  • Genre:  SF
  • Cast:  Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, Keith David, James D’Arcy, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC
“The world spins from the same unseen forces that twist our hearts.”  – Robert Frobisher (The Composer’s Assistant)
 
“Our lives are not our own.  From womb to tomb we are bound to others, past and present, by each crime and every kindness we birth our future.” – Sonmi-451 and also Prophetess
 
“Knowledge is a mirror and for the first time in my life I was allowed to see who I was and who I was meant to be.” – Sonmi-451
Cloud Atlas is a visually stunning and mind-blowing film.  I loved it when I saw it in the theater last November, and it’s no less appealing on DVD.  Cloud Atlas takes the theme of reincarnation and treats it seriously, by weaving together six stories, with often the same actors playing different roles.  The acting in this is phenomenal.  The actors, collectively, don heavy make-up, different clothes, different hairstyles, and sometimes even switch genders as the same “souls” are re-born over and over again.  This film is also unique in that all the scenes in “the Valley” on the Island, 106 years after The Fall – are largely in Pigeon.  (Pigeon is a real language, and it makes sense that a Pigeon would develop in a situation where the few survivors of a presumably, nuclear holocaust, would need to communicate with each other despite initially not speaking the same languages).
A birthmark re-occurs, as does a certain piece of music, but this film doesn’t go the obvious route to bang into your head who is who.  Often, it’s more a matter of recognizing an actor over and over despite how different he or she looks.  And sometimes the same “soul” is implied to have switched not only races but genders – if the shooting star birthmark is meant to suggest he/she is the same person.
I’m not much of a fan of Tom Hanks – but in this, he really manages to bring a number of different characters to life.  Halle Berry is incredibly good, and a far cry from the “sex kitten” roles she usually plays.  British character actors Jim Broadbent and newcomer Ben Whislaw (whom I had seen in the BBC’s “The Hour”) are awesomely good.  And Hugo Weaving  gets to play a number of villains, including a mad nurse and an assassin.
Visually the film is stunning, and mind-blowing.  The imagery, especially in the sections of the film in New Seoul, is incredible.  But even in the historical sections, or the opening shot of an ancient, aboriginal Tom Hanks telling a story, are unforgettable. Identical women, in identical outfits, walking across a fishpond, Tom Hanks’ face as he speaks in firelight, a ship tossed in a gale at sea, Whislaw and D’Arcy trashing all the china in a shop — over and over the images are just breath-taking.  This is a film to be seen.
The first hour or so of Cloud Atlas may seem confusing, though it does pull you in quickly, but stick with it, it is well-worth the long running time to see the story play out.  Any one of the six stories would have made a good or even great film, woven together like an intricate tapestry, they form an incredible, cohesive whole, that is simply brilliant and must be experienced.  A true must see!
Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Goldfinger

Original Reaction – Cloud Atlas (2012) – A Truly Unique Film

Cloud Atlas is a most unusual and mindblowingly awesome film.  The first hour or so (I’d estimate) will have you thinking, “What the … is going on?” over and over, but if you stick with it, all will become clear.  And the film just keeps getting more and more complex, and more and more awesome as it goes on.

The film is a serious treatment of the idea of Reincarnation, however, to describe it as “just that” does not do this simply brilliant film justice.  The storyline follows a pair of lovers over and over through different time-lines and parts of the world – yet it doesn’t do so in a straight-forward, “yawn”, sort of way.  The film is brilliantly shot, but, again, not simply in the “oh that is gorgeous” sort of way or even in the “WOW – what an effects shot” sort of way either.  It’s just simply mind-blowing, especially as you start to figure out what is going on.

Each of the principle actors of the film plays multiple parts, so yes, part of the fun of the movie is spotting Jim Broadbent, Tom Hanks, and Halle Barry over and over again in different times and as different people (as well as most of the rest of the cast including:  Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bea, Ben Whishaw, Keith David, and James D’Arcy among others).  But this film isn’t simply brilliant because all the principles play multiple roles in different times and places.  The world building – which is multi-dimensional – is just as complex and convoluted as the interconnected plot.  That the plot finishes and makes sense and works is part of what makes this such an “omg” film.  I saw it in a small theater and the audience sat in stunned silence for a few minutes before anyone even got up, moved, or left.

The actors are brilliant in this.  Even Hanks, whom I don’t personally like and I find very over-rated does a good job playing multiple characters without always being “Tom Hanks”.  Halle Berry, normally type-cast as a “sex kitten” is phenomenal.  Ben Whishaw and James D’Arcy are simply incredible — and it took me until after I gotten home to finally realise where I’d seen Whishaw before (In the BBC drama – “The Hour” and as Q in “Skyfall”).  Broadbent, of course, is a British character actor who can do anything.  And at the heart, the film revolves around Doona Bea and her characters — all I can say is, “what an actress!”

Quite simply a must see film.  It’s almost impossible to describe why this film is so incredible, but it simply is.  I think I now know what people in the 1960s first thought when they saw the famous film 2001 – because this is just as mind-blowing if not more so, and it’s not centered on European/American culture.  Brilliantly, brilliantly done.