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There can be little doubt that Cloud Atlas will become a classic that
will be watched over and over again by its devoted followers, just like
its predecessors by Stanley Kubrick and Ridley Scott. Despite the many
questions I had in my mind when I left the theater and the moments
during the film when I felt disappointed or confused, I knew this, and
I have not stopped thinking about the movie and longing to be back in
front of the screen.
It is easy to criticize this movie as some have done for being overly ambitious, pandering to low taste, being too simple or too complex, with too few actors or too many, or even for celebrating revenge violence against professional critics who write negative reviews. They may all be correct, but these critics will still put themselves in the same category as those that warned audiences against 2001 or Blade Runner. The truth is that Cloud Atlas is profound in its reach, its visual and acoustic impact, its mesmerizing flow and its completely ground-breaking storytelling, and movie goers will see it and feel it in their guts.
It is a movie that is a product of our age of internet-driven universal knowledge and vision, and the freedom we have to travel the world and jump between ages, genres, images and identities at our will. It reminds us that we are human and that we can still hear our heart beat, if we listen.
Kudos to all the filmmakers for adapting this famously "unfilmable"
novel in such an inventive way. There are SIX separate timelines that
switch after every scene, but instead of the plot, the narrative
continuity follows the theme of the film. Once you clue in to that
overall theme, it is no longer confusing when the story jumps from a
runaway slave in the 1800s to a post apocalyptic future battle between
some of the last humans remaining on earth.
All this audacious style and structure makes Cloud Atlas a curiosity to say the least, but the film is lifted to the realm of "Masterpiece" by the all-star ensemble cast. This impressive collection of actors fires off amazing performances like the Expendables 2 fires off high caliber bullets. I mean this will long be considered one of the greatest acting clinics ever filmed, and a high point in some already outstanding careers, as the end credits alone are astonishing to watch.
Overall this is a movie that transcends the simple elements of stars and plots and special effects, and boldly assumes to take the cinema to another level of storytelling, much like Avatar took film to a new level of technology a few years ago. The ambition, the technical brilliance and the passion that was put into this film makes it one of the great epics of our time.
I didn't find it to be a mess at all, and it was certainly the best
thing the Wachowskis have ever done. I'm not sure how the directing
duties were distributed, so I'll uniformly praise Tom Tykwer as well.
I haven't read the book, so I can't make any comparisons there, but I don't often leave a film adaptation wanting to read the novel afterwards, as I did after seeing this.
Visually stunning, epic in scope, a strong score; the sort of film that you're constantly amazed was ever made and happy it was. Equal parts comedy, romance, thriller, and dystopian speculative fiction, it really is an astounding mix of disparate elements.
The biggest overall failure was definitely some of the make-up effects - trying to turn Doona Bae into a believable red-headed Caucasian woman was simply distracting - but the overall art & sound design was incredible.
If I could turn channels while watching TV and switch between stories and narratives as seamlessly and as deftly as the editing in Cloud Atlas, it would honestly be hard to go back to simply watching one show at a time.
Truly a marvel of multitasking on so many levels. Great stuff.
I was lucky enough to get last-minute tickets for this film at the
Toronto International Film Festival. The theatre was packed and we were
thrilled to see it although we did not entirely know what to expect. I
had read a part of the book but never found time to finish it.
The very opening of the film is mesmerizing and sets pace for all that is to follow. Six stories are intertwined to create one magical ride through time and space, as all stories move forward as one. To those who haven't read the book, I expect you might find the movie confusing at first. It seems unclear at the beginning (and for most of the first hour and a half at least) what all these characters have to do with one another. The end ties it up quite well, but for a three hour film, you might find you've spent a bit too long grasping at straws. Just let it go and enjoy what's before you; It will all come together in the end.
An important aspect of the film is that actors play different characters throughout the film, finding themselves in different stories and eras. Often it works. The futuristic plot with Jim Sturgess is one I particularly enjoy. But sometimes, it feels like they're incorporated just a tad bit much. Tom Hanks' role in the editor's story seemed huge and important and first but it seemed we were supposed to forget about it. As I walked out of the theatre, I felt I had seen not only Cloud Atlas as a whole but a series of other films as well.
I think maybe for a film such as this one, actors who weren't as known would have been better. It may have been easier to believe in all their different characters and forget who they were. But as far as their performances went, well they were great. Tom Hanks shines from the opening sequence to the very end. Halle Berry was adequate for the journalist and Hugh Grant... actually it seems he's playing himself in this one too. But the true star as always is Hugo Weaving. He steals the screen whenever he appears and is mesmerizing both as the devil or a regular assassin.
The costumes and make up went from absolutely stunning (it may take you a few minutes to recognize actors sometimes) to somewhat distracting. Changing the race and age of an actor has got to be challenging but it's still hard to forget who they are. I expect the film will get an Oscar for this however, as I don't think anyone will beat them in this category before winter comes. The score was also incredibly powerful and beautiful and helped set the tone for the movie greatly.
Cloud Atlas will take you anywhere and everywhere. It may surprise you by its sudden burst of violence, sometimes exaggerated and almost funny, sometimes cold and raw. You might cry at times, as the characters make choices and sacrifices. One story is particularly funny and had the theatre laughing quite often.
All in all, Cloud Atlas is no ordinary film. It's a voyage that will take you to places you didn't expect. Don't try to understand it, just let yourself go and you'll find you understood what it was all about. If you're looking for a linear plot, then this film isn't for you. But if you want to experience something different, then by all means, buy a ticket for Cloud Atlas when it comes out. I know I'll be seeing it again.
The last time I felt like this after seeing a movie was when I saw
"Inception" on opening night. I realized I was seeming something that
was different, creative, and classic.
Cloud Atlas is an amazing piece of film. Even the harshest of critics cannot say that this film is not ambitious. But I think that 99% of the people that see this film will appreciate it. I'm NOT one who tends to like films that are overly "artistic" (I hated "Tree of Life", for example). But while the overall message of the film is hard to put into words, it is easy to understand. The film is very watchable, and the nearly 3 hour length seems to fly by. The stories are sharply written, and for those who are afraid of getting "lost" while viewing, no worries ... you'll enjoy seeing clues that link the stories, but even if you miss the clues you still will see a story that is well explained and easier to consume than an experimental art film.
I am absolutely shocked that the reviews from the "experts" have not been more favorable, and the lack of box office sales is a crime. Please go see this movie - if you can see one film this year, this is the one!
"Cloud Atlas" is nearly three hours in length, but I wasn't bored for a
minute. The film alternates between six very different stories quite
seamlessly, creating an exhilarating experience. It's part sci-fi, part
historical drama, part love story, part comedy. Any number of things
could have gone wrong with the film. All the different genres it brings
together might have failed to coherently mesh. But they did, and it's
something to see.
The film takes us on shipboard in the 1800s, where a young man forms an unlikely bond with a stowaway, a runaway slave. It tells the sensitive, melancholy story of a promising young composer in the 1930s separated by prejudice and misfortune from his lover, a man named Sixsmith. It also brings us to 1973, where an intrepid reporter finds herself caught up in a web of murder and intrigue. In the present day, the film offers up the comedic tale of a publisher on the run from a gang of thugs. Plunging into the future, it shows a dystopian vision of Seoul, South Korea that is comparable to "Blade Runner" and a primitive post-apocalyptic Hawaii.
Linking these stories together are the simple thematic elements of love, compassion, and a love for liberty. The correspondence between the composer Robert Frobisher and Sixsmith depicts the plain beauty of love as well as any film I have seen, as do tender moments between the central characters of the portion of the film set in the futuristic New Seoul. Even in the blatantly comic segment with Jim Broadbent as the publisher, a deep passion for freedom and human dignity shines through.
All the actors do a great job in their multiple roles. You can care for Tom Hanks one moment as a villager in a future Hawaii, and then revile him in the next scene where he plays a truly despicable doctor. The best performances are given, however, by Doona Bae and Jim Broadbent. I think they surpass all the rest. Bae plays a "fabricant", a kind of clone designed to serve humanity. Her gradual awakening to her own self-worth, to the subjugation of herself and of her people, is beautifully and movingly conveyed. She is heartbreaking in this role. Broadbent is equally excellent as the publisher Cavendish. His expressive face and popping eyes are ideal for comedy and he's hilarious. But he's more than that. Broadbent infuses the character with a sense of sorrow and weariness at key moments. Cavendish has depth, a history, regrets from his past. Broadbent brings all this out brilliantly without losing his comic touch.
Everything in "Cloud Atlas" comes together to create a film I found thought-provoking and highly entertaining. I don't hesitate to recommend it.
My wife and I were able to see an advanced showing of Cloud Atlas last
night at The Chicago International Film Festival. I will say that I was
thrilled to see this movie from the moment I saw the initial trailer
release. I am a huge fan of movies that are epic in nature and are
rather daring by taking on the task of time lines that may span a
I will not provide any spoilers but I will say that the film is truly grand in scope and as you may have deduced from the trailer, the film time span passes through hundreds of years and includes many characters and story lines that are interwoven or overlap.
I cannot say enough about the performances in the film. From top to bottom, everyone displays amazing performances. Hugo Weaving obviously is a show stopper in several scenes. The make-up and costume design will throw even the seasoned film-goer off as the transitions made by these characters are nothing short of spectacular. I cannot see another film coming close to being in the same category for the Oscar in Costume and Make-Up.
The visuals and the score of the movie were the biggest takeaways for me. There were moments that reminded me of Blade Runner mixed with Out of Africa. There are a large number of stories within the film, some large and some small, but many strong enough to be individual films themselves. That being said with the long running time of the film, almost 3 hours, coupled with the multitude of story lines and the very numerous edits, the film can be a daunting task for even a seasoned viewer. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't fighting to pay close attention to every detail to the first hour of the film to understand what was happening. The first 10 minutes alone caused me some confusion.
This film will not be for everyone due to its complexity and length, but for those who are true fans of films this epic in nature will truly appreciate the film. I very much look forward to another viewing of the film and encourage everyone to see the film at least once.
Cloud Atlas is unlike its contemporaries at the multiplex. It tells a
big story in an engaging, difficult fashion. It has big names and a big
budget. But it also is thematically dense
it wants to tell you
something through plot, characters, dialogue and symbols. Cloud Atlas
is also thankfully a very enjoyable film, much longer and denser than
much of what is available today. "Ambition" defines this film.
In just under 3 hours, six radically different stories are told, and they appeal to a broad audience: a 19th century tale of unlikely brotherhood, the letters of a gay composer to his partner in the 1930's, a San Francisco- set conspiracy in the 70's, A hilarious account of an old publisher's woes. A Blade Runner-esque clone's struggle for freedom, and the survival of a tribe after 'The Fall'. Genre conventions are toppled, as these stories with different tones are juggled in short intervals, leading from comedic highs to shocking drama in minutes.
But as with the characters, these plots are connected thematically, and clever wordplay and visual imagery links the stories, such as the end of a monologue referencing "the gates of Hell" and cutting to a shot of the gates of a building that, for Cavendish at least, is the gates of Hell. Each of the stories has strengths, a few have faults, but together the medley is incredible.
I found that while the earliest two stories began slowly and plainly, they developed very well and provided fantastic drama, especially the 1849 story. The Nuclear thriller was strong, Halle Berry is great and there are some real twists, and I also loved the 'Dirty Harry' and 'China Syndrome' vibes, but comedy bled into it from the 2012 story which diminished the climax. The 2012 story is hilarious, and its first scene is a standout; Tom Hanks is incredible as Dermot Hoggins. Although while the story is interesting, it doesn't fit quite so well thematically- it's almost too light. Listening to the 'Cloud Atlas Sextet' fits with all the stories, but can't resonate with Cavendish's. The future Korea is visually stunning and communicates its themes well, certainly the darkest plot, but the action can get over the top (Yes, I know who directed this) and there are some horrible clichés. But that scene of horrendous dialogue, the weakest in the film, can't derail a great piece. Lastly is the bleak, Hawaii- set post-apocalyptic story. It was my favourite, possibly because I'm a sucker for anything involving apocalypse. But Hanks and Berry are fantastic again, the barbarians are menacing and scary, and the story is cool. It also concludes the film perfectly.
I've only talked about the plot! The actors really steal the show. In the credits, each actor's name is placed with a clip of every one of their characters everyone in the theatre stopped and stayed. People play characters you had no idea they played. A few highlights: Sturgess' lawyer and the slave Autua, Frobisher, Hugh Grant's sexist nuclear boss, Cavendish and Hanks' Hoggins. Doona Bae as Somni and Hugo Weaving's "Old Georgie" round it out- the latter is truly a demon. Much credit has to go to the makeup, literally making actors disappear into their roles. There is a huge number of transsexual and even race-bridging roles- it's worthy of note that Lana Wachowski was at one point Larry Wachowski. Also deserving of praise, and possibly Oscars is the large scale visual effects that cover hundreds of years and look so believable. Sound quality is top-notch as well, listening to Old Georgie is chilling, as is the vision of Korean diners, and well... the whole future.
But all this plot serves a purpose, and Cloud Atlas intends to tell you things. Freedom is possibly the biggest theme, as well as the idea that our actions affect others greatly throughout time: we're part of a large human network. Really though there's so much to talk about you should just see the film. There are small stumbles every so often, but the structure hides them very well. No one story takes more time than others, no one character takes more time than others, and the structure and pacing drives the film forward briskly. It's a shame this film hasn't been better received commercially, because it's a phenomenal achievement, interesting sci-fi and drama, and as of now, the best film I've seen in 2012. 8.8/10
"Impressive". That's the best description I could come up with after
being asked by my brother and sister-in-law about my thoughts on Cloud
Atlas immediately following the film's second-ever public screening
we'd just attended. Not a very incisive assessment, I'll grant you, but
my head was still spinning as I tried to make sense of what I'd just
witnessed over the film's jam-packed two hour and forty three minute
running time. This may be one the most ambitious and epic films I've
ever seen, demanding rapt attention from viewers as they're taken on an
odyssey that spans the globe over 500 years and hopscotches between
numerous interwoven story lines that incorporates just about every film
genre available, featuring actors playing several different roles each.
Cloud Atlas is based on British author David Mitchell's best-selling
2004 novel and was a huge challenge for the filmmakers to adapt and
finance (its estimated budget of over $100 million also makes it the
most expensive independent film ever made). The architects of this
beautifully twisted madness are directors/writers/producers Tom Tykwer
(Run Lola Run) and The Matrix's Wachowski siblings, Andy and Lana (Lana
was Larry until a gender transition that was completed about five years
ago). The Wachowskis, notoriously press shy, were surprisingly on hand
(along with Tykwer) to introduce the film's second screening the
morning after its star-studded TIFF world premiere on September 8th at
the Princess of Wales Theatre.
A movie this expansive should have a massive cast, considering how many characters appear - not so in this case, though. Principle actors Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, and Xun Zhou each take on multiple roles that plays loose and fast with the actors' ages, races, and genders (Susan Sarandon, Keith David, James D'Arcy, and Doona Bae also have smaller roles). Having so many dimensions to explore with all of their characters must have been acting nirvana for this lot. For the most part, they pull off the various requirements of the roles, many of which require a significant amount of prosthetics and makeup. Several of the roles were so well disguised that I was completely clueless that a certain actor had played the role until the end credits visually made some of the big reveals (learning that Berry played the white Victorian housewife and Grant a war paint-layered native completely floored me). Sticking around until the end is an absolute necessity for Cloud Atlas - the oohs and ahhs from the sold-out audience as they discovered who actually played some of the parts was a wonderfully unique filmgoing experience for me. For all of the positive aspects that the race bending and gender bending idea brings to the film, there is the faint whiff of novelty attached to it. Things do get a little silly when you have Weaving seemingly playing an Asian character whose makeup produces more of a Vulcan look (which may have been intentional, as it's for a sci-fi sequence that takes place somewhere in the 2300s), as well as in full drag playing a Nurse Ratched-like character. The latter obviously has parallels to Lana Wachowski's own life and although the nurse character provides some decent laughs, I was a little hung up on how it seemed one of the character's main functions was to generate laughs purely based on the surreal sight of Weaving playing one truly ugly looking woman. Perhaps I'm reading too much into it.
Weaving does provide one of Cloud Atlas' most memorable roles, as the seriously creepy Old Georgie, who terrorizes one of Hanks' many characters. Hanks does some of the best work I've ever seen from him, playing four different characters that range from an unscrupulous doctor in the 1800s to going far against type with maybe the film's standout character, a modern-day thuggish British writer named Dermot Hoggins who gets the ultimate revenge on a critic for a bad review. Berry is excellent with her predominant roles playing an ambitious reporter in 1970s San Francisco and a political figurehead (from what I could grasp) aligned with one of Hanks' characters in the far future, in one of the film's few story lines that doesn't quite work. Also great is Broadbent as both a composer and playing a man tricked into living in a retirement home, who provides the film's best comic relief.
The weighty Cloud Atlas principle themes of philosophy, reincarnation, oppression, and destiny, along with the film's highly challenging pace and complex non-linear storytelling construct will overwhelm many - that's okay, however. I was lost a number of times - not Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy-level lost, mind you, but definitely out of sync with what was happening on screen. This is the type of daring film that demands multiple viewings to completely grasp the filmmakers' grand scope and there's nothing wrong with a little audaciousness from Hollywood once in a while. Even with a big-name cast, it'll be very interesting to see how the otherwise difficult-to-market Cloud Atlas will fare at the box office come late October.
This movie is a fusion of several genres (drama, adventure, sci-fi,
comedy, romantic tragedy) as well as an attempt for an art-house
cerebral movie to attain commercial blockbuster status. In my opinion
it mostly succeeds, but finding a large mainstream audience is its
biggest challenge to be met (at this point, before wide release).
Imagine taking six short (but big-budget) films with different stories and directors and combining them into an anthology feature, united by a common theme and cast of actors in different roles, and then editing the entire thing out of sequence. The "nested" narrative of the book has been re-arranged for the sake of the visual medium of film, and after first being introduced to the 6 worlds, it's not that hard to keep track of who's who, what's what and where & when. Frankly, it's a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination for Best Editing - it works very well considering the challenge of making it flow coherently.
The cinematography, set & art design, music score and performances range from good to great. The make-up in some cases created a distraction (a Korean woman transformed into a red-haired Caucasian; Hugo Weaving as a buxom female nurse) but it adds a bit of fun to the experience. There's a smörgåsbord of material here for most people: human drama, mystery, violence, sex, adventure, farcical comedy, gloomy sci-fi and occasional romance (both gay and straight). It's 6 movies for the price of one! Just be ready to spend almost 3 hours in your seat and suffer a bit of whiplash as the transitions can get frenetic at times, with multiple cliff-hangers happening simultaneously. Like a good roller-coaster, it has its lulls and rushes. Some might find the finale a bit conventional, sappy or anti-climactic. But there's no denying this is a big, expensive gamble on the part of the Wachowskis and their producers. Hopefully it'll achieve the kind of success they got with the first "Matrix" and not the fate of the abysmal "Speed Racer." (PS I saw the film at its world premiere at TIFF.)
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