Cloud Atlas (2012) Directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski & Lana Wachowski. Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and Hugh Grant. IMDB says: ”An exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.”
Cloud Atlas is the tale of Adam Ewing, (Jim Sturgess) a lawyer traveling from the Pacific Islands to San Francisco in the 1700s when he falls ill and receives help from the most unlikely of people. Wait… no that’s wrong. Cloud Atlas is the 1970s thriller-drama about journalist Luisa Rey (Halle Berry) and her uncovering a dark secret of a nuclear power plant. Can she publish the materials in time? Or will she be stopped by a hired gun? Actually… nope. Wrong, sorry. Cloud Atlas is the story of Timothy Cavendish (Jim Broadbent) a book publisher who has had some run-ins with the mob and with the help of his brother (Hugh Grant), he hides out in the most unlikely of places: a retirement home. But upon discovering it’s more like a prison, he decides to escape in this slapstick comedy… I messed up again. I’m sorry this is incredibly unprofessional. Cloud Atlas is the heartbreaking romantic drama set in the late 1800s about young composer Robert Frobisher (a fantastic Ben Whishaw) who is hiding a secret love affair as he crafts the greatest musical piece ever written. Okay, okay, okay. One last time, I swear I’ll get it right. It’s 2241. The setting is Neo Seoul. It’s a dystopian future where fabricants operate amongst the consumers. But when fabricant Sonmi-451 (Doona Bae) breaks free of her slavery, it’s a race to escape the government’s clutches to find refuge within the rebellious group trying to turn things around. You’re kidding me? That’s not it either? Okay… well then Cloud Atlas takes place 144 Winters after the Fall. Zachry (Tom Hanks) is out scouting with fellow tribesman when they are ambushed. Zachry is the only one to survive and as he makes it back to his camp in the valley, he finds there is a visitor from a distant world. Ovid (Halle Berry) is looking for answers in the most dangerous of places. Can Zachry help?
Actually, Cloud Atlas is an intricate and near-perfect weaving of all of those stories. Directed by The Wachowski Siblings (The Matrix, like I really need to tell you who the Wachowski’s are) and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run), the film travels through gorgeously told stories with universal themes about love and changing ones life for the better. The settings are astonishing, the effects are solid, the score is captivating and beautiful at times, and the cast is astounding. Nearly three hours in length, Cloud Atlas is an odyssey through time that I fell in love with and cannot wait to experience over and over.
Set throughout time in locations from San Francisco to Neo Soeul to jungle wastelands to the Pacific Ocean, the film looks great and nothing comes off as cheap of half-assed. A lot of time and care was spent putting this film together and it shows. The special effects are pretty wild, especially in Neo Seoul. The futuristic computer systems and even the wall displays look like technology that could actually exist in the future. It all looks great. The score changes throughout the film to reflect the time period but it always comes back to the melody of ‘The Cloud Atlas Sextet’, which is a wonderful and moving piece. Director Tom Tykwer worked alongside Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil to craft pieces that were different and distinct, yet universal with melodies that rang from story to story. Orchestral, choral, and digital, the score was a perfect addition to an already overwhelming film. It was as if the score was in place to calm the viewer and relax you into the stories.
There isn’t a bad performance in the entire film. A lot of that is due to the fact that the main cast of actors are in every story. Everyone in the film plays at least five different characters and some even play seven (Jim Sturgess). But that’s not a bad thing. At first it’s confusing because you think okay this Tom Hanks character must relate to another Tom Hanks character when that simply isn’t true. Each character is specific to their story and time period. Motives and morals may be similar, sure, but each character is distinct, yet universal; much like the score. The performances from everyone are fantastic and moving, and with a cast like Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Ben Whishaw, Jim Sturgess, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Doona Bae, Keith David, Hugh Grant, Susan Sarandon, Jame D’Arcy, and many others, how can you go wrong? You can’t. As much of an ensemble piece as this is, one performance stuck out to me the most and that was Ben Whishaw. He’s an up-and-coming actor that has starred in Layer Cake, I’m Not There (he was one of my favorite parts of the film), and he’ll be the new ‘Q’ this November in Skyfall. He’s mainly done independent film and British television, but I feel like this film is going to propel him to the next level of film roles.
I fell in love with this film and I want to experience it again and again and see if I can pick up on the little winks and nods throughout the film. The screener myself and Lindsay saw was not IMAX so you can be sure that I will be seeing this again in IMAX with a Coke ICEE and maybe some cookie dough bites. Go see this film in theatres because it deserves to be experienced that way; don’t sell yourself short by waiting to see it On-Demand or Netflix. Also, just a suggestion, use the bathroom before the film because you’re not going to want to miss a single moment of Cloud Atlas.
FTS SCORE: 93%