Cloud Atlas (2012)
Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw
Directors: Tom Tykwer, Andy & Lana Wachowski
Plot: Stretching across centuries, from a 19th century lawyer's trip across the ocean to a far-flung future, human lives intersect and the actions and dreams of individuals ripple out in time to inspire revolution and hope.
Review: It's always interesting to see proven filmmakers take on the daunting task of adapting to screen novels that have been deemed
un-filmable. Case in point: David Mitchell's 2004 novel Cloud Atlas, a literary
opus whose stories set in the past and future attempt to show how we're all connected, and how an individual's acts of kindness or selfishness ripples across multiple lives. This is five (wait, six!) movies in one - there's the 19th century costume drama, the early 20th forbidden romance with a gay composer, the geriatric comedy (with a terrific Broadbent in the lead), a 70's conspiracy thriller (with Berry as the hard-nosed reporter), a sci-fi rebellion against a dystopian society, and a post-apocalyptic adventure. Lives are linked thorugh the centuries, and bounce off one another in sometimes clever ways. Even at almost three hours there's a lot of ground to cover, leaving some passages a tad shallow and characters getting short-thrift. What is surprising, though, is that the movie never fails in keeping us engaged in the multiple, intermingled stories that merge into an overall arc involving such heady themes as love, death, life and after-life. And all this in a pulpy, Hollywood
smorgasbord of genres. The actors go all-out in different roles and in different eras (made mostly believable thanks to a grand dollop of makeup and prosthetics), in what amounts to an amusing game of dress up: it's great to see Barry on the screen again in a few meaty roles; Hanks is as watchable as ever, be it as a villainous 19th century doctor or a conflicted future tribesman; Hugh Grant, Hugo Weaving and other familiar faces round out the supporting roles, but it's Broadbent who really stands out when all is done. The co-directors - the Wachowskis (the siblings that gave us
The Matrix and Speed
Racer) and Tykwer (the German filmmaker best known for Run Lola
Run) - have split helming the film's specific eras and giving an variation to the narrative, each using their own distinctive style to provide visual cues to dramatic and thematic connections between stories. Cloud Atlas is Art film sensibilities attempted as big-budget, mainstream entertainment, a tough sell that many audiences will find more confusing than fun; but rousing success or corny failure, it's an imaginative, ambitious, imperfect film that dares and dares big.