Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Cloud Atlas (2012)

Cloud Atlas (2012)

Directors: The Wachowskis

Cast: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, Keith David, James D’Arcy, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant

Another film to add to the “films that shouldn’t have flopped” file. I’m actually kind of sad that I never got around to watching this one until now, but I am glad I finally got to watch it because I was missing out on an excellent, profound film. Cloud Atlas comes to us from three directors, Andy and Lana Wachowski (the two siblings behind The Matrix trilogy) and Tom Tykwer, the director behind the gruesome and beautiful Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006). Tykwer also directed the ultra stylized Run Lola Run (1998). Why three directors you might ask? Well, this film is extremely complex; it involves various stories occurring in different timelines. It’s a story that spans throughout many decades, past, present and future. The Wachowski’s directing this one makes sense because they are used to directing complex films with a lot of special effects and having Tom Tykwer involved makes sense as well, his Run Lola Run was all about how our smallest actions can profoundly affect other people’s lives, which is essentially what Cloud Atlas is all about.

I’ m not going to attempt to explain or mention the premise for each of the story lines here because that would make for a convoluted review, instead, I’ll present you guys with the films themes in a nutshell. This is a story about people fighting for injustices throughout history. In each of the story lines, an atrocity is being committed against humanity, be it through racism, bigotry or plain and simple evil. In each of the story lines, characters are fighting against said injustices. The most interesting aspect of the whole film is how all the characters are connected, as if each one of them had come back through reincarnation to continue fighting evil in their new life or to evolve. There’s this prevailing idea that we evolve through time; in one life a character might be a scoundrel, but in the next he has learned his lesson and has evolved into a kind hearted individual. At the center of it all is the idea that truth, love and goodness must prevail and that we cannot let evil slip through the cracks.  

I remember when this film was first released; it got a lot of “worst of the year” reviews. I cannot understand why; It’s a beautiful film with something important to say. Fight the injustice, human rights need to be respected, we all need our dignity and our freedom to be who we want to be in this world. But I guess movies with a good message aren’t as popular as nonsensical action movies and yet, here’s the thing, Cloud Atlas proves to be an entertaining film as well. It’s not preachy, or boring, in fact, it has some kick ass action in it! In this way, it reminded me of a recent favorite of mine, Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland (2015), which while giving a valid, positive message to the masses still managed to be wildly entertaining and include incredible visual effects. Same thing with Cloud Atlas, a poignant film that got lost in the shuffle.  Some will undoubtedly find it a “messy” story, but in all honesty, if you have a brain in your head and stick with the story all the way to the end, you will “get it”, you will see that there is a cohesiveness to the tale, you will see that it will all make sense in the end. You will see the inter-connectivity between the stories and you will see that they all relate to the message of fighting the injustices in our society. You will see that it’s all about us, fighting for our rights to be free, to live our lives in spite of the fact that there are forces out there that would have it otherwise. 

Production wise, it must have been a daunting task to make this movie. Actors recount how one day they’d be dressed as a pirate, the next day as a doctor, the next day as someone from the future, I have to say it all worked out in the end, which is what matters. The Wachowski’s have been making unsuccessful movies for some time now, Speed Racer (2008), Cloud Atlas (2012) and most recently Jupiter Ascending (2015), which makes me wonder if we’ll see a film from them again. If I know how Hollywood works, we probably won’t. Still, if you haven’t given Cloud Atlas a chance, then maybe you should. It’s got a formidable cast composed of Tom Hanks, Halley Berry, Susan Sarandon, Hugo Weaving, Keith David, I mean it just goes on and on and each actor plays various characters throughout time, it’s interesting to see them portraying all these different characters. Bottom line is, you probably missed out on this one when it originally released (like me), but you should give it a shot, the Wachowski’s made a good one and most of the world missed it.  

Rating: 4 out of 5    


SFF said...

We may not always agree on some things TFC but you have nailed your assessments on Jupiter Ascending and, here, Cloud Atlas.

No that the films can be truly compared, but they both look amazing as one might expect from the men (or make that man and woman) behind The Matrix trilogy.

How could Jupiter Ascending go so wrong? I agree. 2 (of 5). I wanted to love that film but alas Mila Kunis was not very good in that role and the film, unlike Cloud Atlas, is sorely lacking in at least some sort of quality subtext.

Cloud Atlas, on the other hand, is actually a solid film albeit flawed, yes, but at least challenging with a good degree of substance to it. Jupiter was like a big stick of cotton candy. I mean bad for you but calling that film cotton candy might be too kind. At least cotton candy tastes good. Jupiter had some redeeming qualities, but not nearly as many as Cloud Atlas.

I completely agree with 4(of 5) and this is a wonderfully fascinating film. Truth be told, I don't remember it well since seeing it. It didn't leave an entirely memorable visual impression, like say Blade Runner, but it may be because it bounces visually throughout its narrative. Having said that I did walk away impressed and pleased I had experienced that picture.

I'm pleased to say I purchased the picture too and I hope to watch it again. It is the kind of film that lends itself to a revisit or two.

I have yet to purchase Jupiter. That film will have to be on sale for like 3.99.
That says it all.

Great call TFC! SFF

Sergei Kolobashkin said...

I really love the far future arc. Hugh Grunt was awesome as the leader of the savage gang. Everything about this movie is awesome.

Franco Macabro said...

SFF: Yeah, I wish Jupiter Ascending had never happened...alas, it did and it tarnished The Wachowskis and dug their grave deeper...thankfully they keep producing television shows like Sense8, which is apparently gathering an audience...I just hope they get another chance to redeem themselves and make something worthwhile.

But yeah, Cloud Atlas was solid. My favorite bit was the one with the spaceships and the totalitarian future. I loved how they played with the different timelines and how they managed to intertwine them, even though, like a Chuck Palahniuk book, nothing seems to make sense at first, by the time you are through it all clicks. I will be watching it again soon that's for sure, I'm just a sucker for stories that appeal to our humanity and our innate goodness.

Sergei: Hugh Grant was totally unrecognizable on that role, he looked pretty cool, savage. Also, it was weird, but I could actually understand that language they made up for the movie!

Sergei Kolobashkin said...

What was the basis for the language?

Franco Macabro said...

It sometimes united words to create new ones, or used modified or abbreviated versions of words from the English language.

Sergei Kolobashkin said...

I watched it in Russian so the city speak was also dubbed in a similar fassion.

Franco Macabro said...

The story with the old people in the retirement home was very touching...I felt for those guys, it made me think of my dad who's well into his old age and myself as well and the way I'll be treated when I reached that point in life. Old people shouldn't lose their freedom or sense of self, if they are clear minded they should be allowed to make their own choices and lead their lives however they chose to as well as anybody else. Life should never stop being fun, interesting and exciting.


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