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Cloud Atlas movie poster

Cloud Atlas: Movie Review


Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi, Period
Rated: R
Directed by: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski

Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Hugo Weaving, Susan Sarandon, Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, Jim Broadbent, Doona Bae, James D'Arcy, Xun Zhou, Keith David, David Gyasi
Released by: Warner Bros. Pictures

Running time: 172 minutes

In Short: This epic intertwining of six stories from very different moments of human existence is a fascinating cinematic adventure and a startling example of filmmaking at its most ambitious.

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WE'RE ALL CONNECTED

Take an Epic Adventure with "Cloud Atlas"

It's been four years since the Wachowski Brothers have made a movie, so it's no wonder that "Cloud Atlas" is causing quite a stir. One reason the duo ("The Matrix") have been out of the picture for a while is a personal one, as the siblings are no longer exactly "brothers." For Larry Wachowski had a sex-change operation in 2008 and is now known as Lana. This may be why they enlisted German director Tom Twyker ("Run, Lola, Run") to join them in co-producing, -writing and -directing "Cloud Atlas"; or it may simply be that the sweeping epic saga was just too big for two people to handle.

Regardless of the motives, the trio's adaptation of the award-winning (and generally perceived to be unfilmable) 2004 David Mitchell novel is a seriously ambitious effort. Telling six intertwining tales set at different moments in the history of humanity, the filmmakers posit the idea that everyone on earth is always connected, throughout all of time. To that end, many of the characters in the disparate stories are seemingly reincarnations of someone from a previous era; we know this by the comet birthmarks they all share and by the fact that they often have a distinct resemblance to someone from another epoch.

Tom Hanks in Cloud Atlas Doona Bae and Halle Berry in Cloud Atlas

You're sure to recognize some of the actors some of the time, as each member of the all-star cast takes on multiple roles under varying levels of face-changing makeup and latex (with some of that makeup being not quite as successful as others). There's Tom Hanks, for example, as a greedy physician in the 1850s, a hotel manager in the 1930s, a love-struck physicist in the 1970s, a London gangster in the 2000s and, in the center of the tale at a time far, far in the future, as a goat herder who is barely surviving after much of the world has crumbled around him. Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Susan Sarandon, Jim Sturgess, Hugo Weaving, Doona Bae and Keith David take on similar challenges, shape shifting into very different personas (and even sexes) as the separate stories unfold.

The almost three-hour-long film moves rapidly from one story to another for the most part, which may at first be slightly disconcerting, but it soon falls into a natural rhythm, with scenes often slightly overlapping, morphing seamlessly from one time period into another. It all reinforces the theme of interconnectedness, often framed with the somewhat nasty reality that humans often are selfish predators who are out for themselves. Central to the story as well is the "Cloud Atlas" symphony, a six-part musical composition that flows throughout the ages, also connecting the distaff worlds.

This densely layered epic has it all, from intensely dramatic moments and delightful comedic interludes all the way to slam-bang action sequences and eye-popping futuristic worlds. Add in breathtaking moments of sheer visual beauty, with every moment anchored with terrific performances and what you end up with is a film that takes you on a journey of discovery that will boggle your mind. It also requires you to keep an open mind, as it can be offensive at times. Whether you like the place you end up is for each individual to decide, but it is certainly a fascinating ride.

 

Reviewed by Alain Gayot

 



PCT100312
(Updated: 12/28/12 CT)

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