CLOUD ATLAS review by Ronnie Malik

CLOUD ATLAS review by Ronnie Malik

Director: Tom Tykwer, Lana Wachowski and Andy Wachowski

Cast: Tom Hanks, Keith David, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Hugh Grant, Jim Sturgess, Susan Sarandon, David
Gyasi, Doona Bae

Rating: B+

“Cloud Atlas” is a film that will make for great conversation over drinks as viewers really think about and string together what they just experienced at the theatre. Filled with intricate details, fabulous imagery, and interesting dialogue, “Cloud Atlas” is a three hour film journey that feels more like a sweeping 3 minutes. Directed by Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis, “Cloud Atlas” is an ambitious and rather successful attempt at bringing a series of 6 complex stories that all share a common moral thread to life on the big screen. The film opens with Zackery (Tom Hanks), a wise elder in the far off future, sitting at a camp fire and narrating six overlapping sagas in an effort to teach the village children how ordinary people facing moral dilemmas can make choices that will not only change the course of their lives but the course of history. To make things simple lets sum up the six tales:

1. It is the year 1800 on the Pacific Ocean. An American Lawyer carrying gold and engaging in the slave trade is poisoned by his corrupt doctor who wants to steal the gold. The Lawyer befriends an African slave and realizes that slavery should be abolished.

2. In the 1930s a young composer, fearful that his music is going to be stolen by his prominent and well known mentor, attempts murder.

3. An up and coming female reporter combs the streets of San Francisco in the 1970s to uncover a plot by a corrupt business mogul to halt the development of a nuclear power plant.

4. Fast forward to 2012 and we have a book publisher who makes it big overnight– but his unscrupulous brother manages to get him locked up in a nasty old folk’s home.

5. In the year 2144, slaves known as “fabricants” are cloned and genetically engineered and are also programmed to obey and serve. One young female fabricant manages to break free and start a revolution.

6. Far off into a war torn future, a village elder agrees to help a woman from a more advance civilization find a lost city that may hold the key to the survival of her people.

The actors in the film play various characters through each sequence which helps keep the movie connected. The main characters all possess a birth mark in the shape of a comet and often repeat the same lines, revealing the theme of the film: that over the course of history mankind continues to face moral challenges which often threaten humanities existence. Each story’s underlying message is of breaking free from that which binds us, being able to discern right from wrong, uniting for a common cause, overcoming fear, and that love will ultimately conquer all. Each plot by itself is easy to understand, but often because the film is moving so fast it is hard to connect all the dots to see how the whole film is linked together. This can lead to unsatisfying movie watching experience.

“Cloud Atlas” is beautifully edited as the film transitions smoothly from each time period. The visual effects of the sci-fi future looks like something out of the “Matrix” and are extremely eye catching. The streets of San Francisco make a great back drop for a detective story. The journey through the landscape of a post-apocalyptic future is shot magnificently to create a feel of an epic adventure.

Heavy and skillfully applied prosthetic makeup along with great costume design aid the actors in creating the various characters they each have to play. There is comic relief thrown in when a group of retirees plan the ultimate prison escape from a questionable nursing home. The action sequences are on target in creating suspense for the film. We’ve got Hugo Grant and Hugo Weaving brilliantly playing villains in various scenes. Tom Hanks, true to form, holds his own on the big screen. Halle Berry does great as a reporter from the 1970s but is not quite as convincing as an advanced being with funny tattoos and an odd way of speaking. The dialect given Berry, apparently to make her character seem more articulate, only accomplishes making her look like she never learned proper English. Further, the dialogue Halle Berry is given as the Polynesian looking being visiting earth makes her appear rather foolish and adds to the confusion of the movie.

The entertainment value for “Cloud Atlas” comes from trying to understand its message. This is one of those films that will likely spur many interesting philosophical discussions which might just bring people closer together. Not to mention that many won’t mind seeing this three hour movie again just to catch all the fine details they may have missed on the first run – and that alone shows that the filmmakers knew their industrious undertaking to make “Cloud Atlas” would be a soaring success.

CLOUD ATLAS is set to hit theaters on October 26, 2012

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