Wednesday, 21 August 2013

'Cloud Atlas' Film Review

Based on the Booker nominated book of the same name by David Mitchell, 'Cloud Atlas' is an epic movie spanning six eras, where the past, present and future are all connected, with ones actions leading to another's consequences, effects rippling through time and space.

The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing, South Pacific Ocean, 1849
A story about Adam Ewing, who does business in the Chatham Islands and meets a Moriori slave who hides in his ship and seeks protection. Ewing grows ill and is struggling to survive himself.

Letters from Zedelghem, UK, 1936
A story about Robert Frobisher, a broke musician who becomes a protege to aging composer Vyvyan Ayers and discovers Adam Ewing's journal, but only half of it. As Frobisher starts composing his own piece, 'The Cloud Atlas Sextet', Ayers attempts to take credit for it and threatens Frobisher. Frobisher writes all that he encounters in letters to his lover Sixsmith.

Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery, San Francisco, 1973
A story about Luisa Rey, a journalist, who meets nuclear physicist Sixsmith and begins investigating the conspiracy of a new nuclear power plant. Sixsmith is killed and Luisa finds his letters from Frobisher, leading her to find the recording of 'Cloud Atlas Sextet', which she claims to have heard before. Still looking for evidence to expose the company behind the nuclear plant, she feels she is being followed...

The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish, UK, 2012
A story about Timothy Cavendish, a publisher who receives a draft of Half Lives, The First Luisa Rey Mystery, but ends up in a nursing home after being tricked by his brother taking revenge on him for an old affair. Having accidentally signed his life away, he must try to find a way to escape this prison. 

An Orison of Somni-451, Neo-Seoul, 2144
A future story in dystopian Korea, where corporate culture has taken over in a totalitarian state. Somni 451 is a 'fabricant', clone, working in a diner as a server. Interviewed for treason and facing a death sentence, Somni tells the story of her ascension (gaining knowledge) and rebellion, having come into contact with the movie of 'Timothy Cavendish'. 

Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After, The Big Island, 2321
After 'The Fall', a postapocalyptic event that wiped out most humans, Zachry lives in a primitive village. They worship a goddess called Somni. His village is visited by Meronym, a member of a nearby advanced civilisation still holding onto technology after Zachry witnesses the death of his brother in law and nephew by the head of the Kona tribe. Although suspicious of Meronym's motives, he helps her and takes her to the Cloud Atlas station in exchange for the healing of his sister.

Featuring six stories in six eras and six locations, 'Cloud Atlas' attempts to tell a huge tale, all of which encompass themes of social subversion, injustice, revolution and truth-seeking etc. For viewers that haven't read the book and plunged into the film not knowing anything, the movie plays out in a confused blur that will leave you scratching your heads. 

Having loved the book, the movie was visually spectacular, the diverse locations and the imagined futures really bring the stories to life and give the film the grandeur it deserves, with a style that matches the depth of the plot. That said, I was not too keen on the Letters of Zedelghem (originally set in Belgium) to be in the UK... but that may be due to the filming budget.

As the book splits each story in half and progresses as 1-2-3-4-5-6-5-4-3-2-1, the reader is left in suspense until they reach halfway before facing the climax of each, one by one. The film controversially handles this differently by mashing all the stories together and kind of groups them together when similar themes occur, cutting to shots of different stories as a character says something relevant etc. 

Personally, I would have liked to have had the same feeling as I did reading the book, of not knowing what happened and then have one ultimate climax, revealing the outcomes of all six stories... I would die for that cut of the film. In that way, the stories could also be slightly more individualistic, with the audience connecting more to each as well as making it less confusing for those not having read the book.

Another talking point of the movie was reusing the cast for multiple roles in the film. With a theme being reincarnation, it was appropriate to do this and definitely worked very well, especially when the same character was used for the antagonists- there is a real feeling of oppression coming from those recurring cast members. However, at times it does feel forced when Jim Sturgess has to look Korean... well, the make up team did a pretty good job!

At 172 minutes, the film is extremely long, but I wanted more! Most of the stories are handled very well as they kept closely to the book, although there could still be so much more that could be included. The climax and resolve to the film rounded off each story well and concluded with the message or themes of the film, though I thought it could have been all a bit more explosive and have the message really hit you at the finale.

Tom Hanks- Dr Henry Goose, Isaac Sachs, Zachry
Halle Berry- Jocasta Ayrs, Luisa Rey, Meronym
Jim Broadbent- Captain Molyneux, Vyvyan Ayrs, Timothy Cavendish
Hugo Weaving- Bill Smokes, Nurse Noakes, Old Georgie
Jim Sturgess- Adam Ewing, Hae-Joo Chang
Doona Bae- Somni 451
Ben Whishaw- Robert Frobisher
Susan Sarandon- Abbess
Hugh Grant- Lloyd Hooks, Kona Chief, Rev. Giles Horrox

Also stars James D'Arcy, David Gyasi and Keith David.

The cast is spectacular. Though male dominated, Halle Berry and Doona Bae are strong female characters that are diverse and stand out in the movie. Tom Hanks is brilliant in all his roles! Though only having small roles, Hugh Grant does them well.

I don't usually comment on the soundtrack to movies, but 'Cloud Atlas' has a spectacular soundtrack, especially the 'Cloud Atlas Sextet' which I'm not only listening to, but started playing it on the piano too! It's simply sweet honey to the ears <3 font="">

'Cloud Atlas' is a huge undertaking by the Wachowskis (creators of The Matrix), but they pulled it off, making strong decisions and adding their style to a finished movie that is highly underrated and leading to split reviews. 

I personally really liked it, though I may have to watch it again if I am to really love it (in order to pick on the details and really absorb it). Visually spectacular and deeply meaningful, this is a rare gem of a movie and with a stellar cast, what more do you want? Just make sure you read the book first! Oh, and have three hours spare!

No comments:

Post a Comment

What do you think? Add your comment here!!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...