I got to see an early screening of Cloud Atlas, thanks to Chris Hardwick and The Nerdist.
Official Synopsis: “From acclaimed filmmakers Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, and Andy Wachowski, the powerful and inspiring epic drama “Cloud Atlas” explores how the actions and consequences of individual lives impact one another throughout the past, the present and the future….”
(NOTE: I truncated this because it gave away more info than I knew going in.)
Based on author David Mitchell’s best-selling 2004 novel, which had been called “unfilmable” by some, the film has three directors working at the same time on a story spanning centuries and across the globe.
This is not going to be an easy review.
Ever since the (above) “extended” trailer came out, everyone has been wondering what the movie is about, including me. Is it about reincarnation? Is it science fiction? Is it fantasy?
I don’t have a solid answer for you.
But I do know that it got to me. But even how or why it did, is something I’m still processing.
When you are someone who complains that so many movies in theaters today seem to be the cookie-cutter, remake, sequel-prequels, then you should really go just to see one that is daring, that is trying to be different. It may not work for you, but at least the film isn’t someone’s “reboot” of a studio’s “franchise”.
Understand in advance, the movie makes you work. It forces you to engage it right from the start, involving shifting characters played by the actors in multiple roles in six different times and, at some points, dialogue in a guttural language done without subtitles (Think the Droogspeak from A Clockwork Orange). The movie makes no apologies that it hits the ground running and you have to keep up. In some ways, it dares you to abandon it, because it would be quite easy. I thought about it once or twice while watching it early on.
But I started to understand what it was trying to accomplish.
The Wachowsis and Twkyer are trying to use the language of film to communicate its ideas, themes and emotions in new ways.
I did say that the movie took me a bit to connect with it. I believe that the early part of the film, especially the introduction of the eras before the opening title, is all about trying to “teach” the audience the basic vocabulary of how this story is going to be told.
I was reminded of movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Pulp Fiction and Memento. Those films are not something that can be easily explained in words, but instead uses the visual storytelling of film to invent or expand how an audience “reads” and experiences a movie. They advanced the language of film, building complexity. Even then, these movies don’t connect with everyone, even after all these years.
But it obviously did connect with me, because I eventually found myself in rhythm with the how the story was unfolding, running with it as it were. The emotional link between me and the story gained strength on several levels, not just by dialogue or singular images. Literary elements are being translated to film editing and narrative structure here, as dialogue overlaps from one time to another, where visual cues are spun across each of the eras and how non-linear story-telling can produce a unique story from the sum of its parts.
Damn. I got all “film school artsy-fartsy”, didn’t I?
OK. This is a genre-defying epic film that includes historical drama, 70’s paranoia, forbidden love, farcical comedy, science fiction and post-apocalyptic action, dealing with life, death, love, greed, and the human spirit in its many forms. If you don’t like one of the storylines, don’t worry; it will switch soon enough! But as the film progresses, they are all woven together so that you will care about all of them., because…”Everything is connected.”
Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Doona Bae, Jim Broadbent, Ben Whishaw, Jim Sturgess, Susan Sarandon, Keith David, James D’Arcy, Hugh Grant, and Hugo Weaving, all get to pay the hero, the villain and a nobody at one time or another during the course of the move… kinda like Life.. Whether you count it as good or bad, because of their shifting roles the actors had, it’s hard for me to say if the ‘stars” were good. They were actors in service of the stories, above all else. There a few times where you are taken aback by where and how they appear during the film. It’s better just to wait to see them appear than for me to tell you about them. Trust me.
What is Cloud Atlas?
I’m reminded of a line of dialogue that was also from the Wachowskis:
You have to see it for yourself.”
That’s a perfect description of Cloud Atlas.
WORTH PAYING… Evening prices, if you want a challenging film.
WORTH MAKING TOYS? Maybe for some of the future era…
And it’s worth seeing the end credits for each of the actors showing them, visually, all the various parts they played. You’ll laugh and you’ll be surprised where you might have missed
Thanks for reading and let me know what you thought of the movie.