As confounding as life, as pulsating as time and as boundless as space.
Wow, and you all probably thought Prometheus and The Dark Knight Rises were this year’s “controversial” movies to like or dislike, right? You guys ain’t seen nothing yet…
Well, where to start with this one? I guess I can start by saying I hope all of you are well-versed in Eastern Transcendental Philosophy, the last 160 years of history, movies of the last four decades, getting over heavily overdone make-up effects, future post-apocalyptic gibberish speak, and being throughly involved in thinking for 171 straight minutes (…and perhaps long afterwards).
Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer have crafted an awe-inspiring, mind-bending, bizarre and, yes at times unintentionally hilarious mash-up of Science-fiction, philosophy, time and pure creativity. Stringing together ethereally interconnected stories from the Pacific Islands in 1849, to England country-side in 1936, San Francisco in 1973, London in 2012, South Korea in 2144 and finally an unidentified area in an unknown time in the far dystopian future. Got all that? There will be a quiz afterwords…
Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Jim Sturgess, Hugo Weaving, Susan Sarandon and Keith David headline and star several times as many different characters throughout the six different time-lines. Most playing different races and genders in between. Same actors in different roles seemingly signifies “souls” or karma crossing in and out of the spiritually interconnected six stories, rippling through the cosmos. One character’s “soul” journey takes him from being a petty murderer, all the way to being a folk hero. Others begin as prisoners and rise to become revolutionary leaders. While other character “souls” never change their moralities or choices from the different times and places. Whether it is love, fighting the system or simply listening to the music of an obscure composer, characters become intertwined in the dense fabric that is Cloud Atlas.
There is no reason for me to go further into the plots, not so much of not wanting to give anything away, more it would take whole essays to outline them fully. Basically, it is a mash-up of One Who Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Amistad, Blade Runner, Mad Max, The China Syndrome, and Amadeus. The best possible mix of all those, undoubtably. Defying simple plot description, this is something you will have to see for yourself. A word of caution; however, if you feel the need to check your watch more than twice during the near three-hour run-time, this will decidedly not work for you. One must be completely immersed in the experience, see the forest through the trees if you will, because there are going to be instances where decisions on some points of the story will confound and confuse you.
Which leads me into what most people, not unfairly, will likely gravitate towards… the make-up effects. As previously stated several characters play as different races, Halle Berry plays a white women, Jim Sturgess a Korean Man and Tom Hanks a cockney Londoner (in full-on “Dick Van Dyke” mode). The make-up effects range from uncannily good to unintentionally hilarious, at first glance. Now, after seeing the likes of Jim Sturgess and James D’arcy “asianfied” (being half-chinese myself, I guess I’m “asianfied” too…) for an hour, one just goes with it. This is Cloud Atlas here after all: all of time is simultaneously happening all at once, people’s choices will affect other people’s lives through time and space, and there are no genders or races to identify the true “soul” of a person within. In the grand scheme of things, will it really matter what race or gender the person was? Who did they love, what they stand for and how did they live, isn’t that what really matters? For it is those facts that will transcend time and space.
This is what film was conceived for, expressing ideas, thoughts and emotions in ways that no other medium can. Although this was first a novel by David Mitchell, which I’ll be sure to read now, film as a visual medium expresses these ideas in ways that I gather words on a page cannot quite do. As one might notice while reading this review…
There will undoubtably be numerous questions accompanying the credit’s roll, most will be centered around the notion of “Getting-it” or not. As if there was some “key” that will magically make the movie more of an experience for you. This is a hollow notion, movies do not have intangible goals and keys that will reveal all the answers for you. If you want a true gratification of “Getting it”, any video-game will do that for you. Virtual gaming is all about quests, films are all about journeys. I’m fully endorsing this movie, but hell if I know some or any of the answers to the questions you could ask me about it.
It is a beautiful breezy symphony of cinematography, performances, scope and ambition. There you go, that is my answer to all of your questions.
8.5/10 (For better and for worse, you’ll never see anything quite like this)