Cloud Atlas Oct 28, 2012 15:20:22 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Oct 28, 2012 15:20:22 GMT -5
Halle Berry and Tom Hanks play a combined twelve roles in Cloud Atlas.
For years, it was said that David Mitchell's famous novel Cloud Atlas was "unfilmable." A story of such profound, epic-proportions that encapsulating all the beauty, charm, angst, heroism, and complexity of it would be an extraordinarily impossible feat. The Wachowski siblings, Andy and Lana, and Tom Tykwer have done it; they've successfully created a visionary tale of impeccable beauty. A polarizing epic filled with untold ambition and high-flying possibilities, for the most part, all of which extenuated with stunning beauty, Cloud Atlas manages to soar past any expectations to be one of the most puzzling and enjoyable pictures of the last decade.
The film takes six drastically different story and manages to use mostly the same actors in each one of them, making them up to look like completely different people, playing different character-types, different races, and sometimes, different sexes. We all knew going into this that headliners Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, and Susan Sarandon are immensely talented people, always capable of providing their audience with a memorable show, but I can imagine how challenged and pressured they felt to embody themselves in characters light years away from anything they've ever played before.
I will explain the six stories ambiguously and quickly, so your experience may not be compromised. The first story, titled "The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing," takes place on an enormous ship sailing the Pacific, circa 1849, exploring relations between an optimistic crewmember and an African-American slave. The second story, "Letters from Zedelghem," is set in 1931 Belgium and dives into the complex relationship between a young music transcriber and the aging composer he must work for. The third, "Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery," set in the 1970's, shows how a young journalist uncovers a huge nuclear conspiracy run by an oil company mogul. The fourth, "The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish," one of my favorites, centers on a British publisher who is trapped in an eccentric nursing home, shunned from his children and confined to the quirky treatment of the people working there. The fifth, "An Orison of Sonmi~451," shows a grim, plastic future, set in the 22nd century, where corporations have thrived at the expense of the population and clones have been made to run society, unless one of them can see the corruption and fight back (this is how that futuristic mess Branded should've been). Finally, the sixth story, "Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After," (by this time, we're around the year 2346) focuses on a tribesman and his close friendship with a woman with more technological aptitude than him and how their togetherness may be star-crossed or simply meant to be.
Have I left you in the fog? After writing that, I feel I've greatly distanced myself from reality. Cloud Atlas is a film where one can go in with the mindset to completely absorb themselves in the movie, where they will never stop thinking, question everything, and extract multiple meanings from every little piece of it. Another could go in with the mindset to be entertained, but also treated with respect as a viewer, rewarded with their 164 minutes of patience by being given some deeper moral or life-realization. And finally, the most casual viewer can just walk in and expect a fine experience for which they will be marveled and left to cherish. No one is wrong here, but I do believe walking in with the mindset that you will question every little piece leaves little to no enjoyment on your behalf. I walked in with a willingness to pay attention, listen closely, and to be taken with the world the Wachowski's and Tykwer have brought to me, and not forget that I want to be entertained in the process. I wasn't let down in the slightest.
My experience is greatly reminiscent of Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life (ironically, the "Sloosha's Crossin'" story's cinematography looks very similar to the kind utilized in Malick's New World - about John Smith and Pocahontas). The first act was hard to get into, mainly because you're adapting to this world brought to you out of the blue. The second act is when you're beginning to like what you've been through and you're patiently awaiting more. The third act is when you've become so in touch with this world, that walking out of the multiplex is like leaving a place you feel you haven't spent enough time at. Let me just say, it was hard to go back in the car.
Back to the notable challenge the actors undoubtedly faced, when we watch films with these known character actors headlining the picture, we see them as their person first and as their character second, most of the time. Not here. The outstanding makeup crew of Cloud Atlas has made a majority of the cast virtually unrecognizable. You're able to pick out who some of the characters are portrayed by, but without the credits showcasing in pictures who was who, some of those stronger characters played by unlikely actors would've went unnoticed. It astonished me but warmed my heart incredibly to see actors like Halle Berry and Hugo Weaving crossing the boundaries of sex and race. To do that in a film where the main message, from what I can see, is that the people in the universe are connected through souls and spirits and that acts both noble and ordinary have a lasting impact on your future doppelgangers in a sort of transcendentalist form, shows that we are not confined to one race in the future, but potentially, many.
That's as complicated as I'll go in trying to fathom the moral and the underlying theme(s) of Cloud Atlas. I feel continuing, painstaking research will cause nothing but frustration and exhaustion to the point of me never even wanting to look at the film again. And that is definitely not how a film like this should be treated. The film is one of the most lavish theater experiences I've come to have in my short years as a functioning internet critic, and between the incredible cinematography, subversive tonality, elegant performances, non-linear narrative, and the impact left on the viewer worth two or three epics, it'll be difficult to judge another dystopian film again. Now if only there was that emotional impact would Cloud Atlas have truly come full circle.
Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Bae Doona, Ben Whishaw, James D'Arcy, Zhou Xun, Keith David, David Gyasi, Susan Sarandon, and Hugh Grant. Directed by: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, and Tom Tykwer.