Cloud Atlas

It is not uncommon for a a film to achieve something groundbreaking or new in this age of technology. Things are advancing so quickly that nearly every year we see something that no one else had previously been able to achieve, and with such a wide range and accessibility of information and equipment, more unique ideas and stories are finding festival and box office success. This year, as the days grow shorter and colder and the Oscar probable films start to pour out, we are given Cloud Atlas, which is the most groundbreaking, new, and influential movie of this past year, if not the past five or not.

In the past 10 years, independent films have been increasing in number while the number of Hollywood films slowly declines. Obviously the Hollywood films will all have higher budgets allowing for higher caliber production crews and casts than independent films [for the most part], so Hollywood films have still had more overall draw and interest. But Cloud Atlas, despite being passed up by the six major film companies, was not only able to find a long list of backers to create a 100 million dollar budget, but they were also able to sign Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, two of the most popular and coveted actors in the business today, along with Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Keith David, Hugh Grant, Susan Surandon, and more. This is a big push towards independent film development, for Hollywood doesn’t back a film that could potentially be a bust, and the intricate, complicated plot and vision of Cloud Atlas was seen as too big of a risk. Even though the film was created by Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer, three people that have found success in creating new material, Hollywood did not want to take the chance, and it now seems that these three minds have another trend-setting movie on their resume.

Cloud Atlas is 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. [IMDb]

There have been times when I have struggled to summarize a film’s plot, but never have I been at a complete loss to do so, as I am with this movie. There are at least 5 different story lines in which most of the main actors are all present and playing different characters. They each take place in a different time, spanning from the 17th century to the year 2144 and beyond. The movie is about the connections between all of these stories, how they are all related and the same. The scope of the film is so expansive, however, that the previous descriptions don’t really encompass all that you will experience, so my advice: just see for yourself.

Arguably the most intriguing aspect of this movie to see for yourself is the transformation of these select actors from one role to another. Not only are they changing from a person in one century to another, but they are changing from Caucasian to Asian, male to female, and from hero to killer. The make-up work is just plain awesome. If you go to see the movie, make sure you stay for the credits, where they will show you every character that the actors played, it is really fun to see.

3/6 of the characters Halle Berry and Tom Hanks play.

Another really cool feature is the method of direction with all of these different story lines. Two individual crews were used to make the different stories, one directed by the Wachowski’s and the other by Tykwer. I don’t think anything like that has ever been done before, so it’s clear to see the level of connection between the three writer/directors. After the Wachowski’s finished V for Vendetta, Natalie Portman was the one who gave the book Cloud Atlas to Lana, who instantly shared the book and idea of creating a film with her brother and close friend Tykwer [Portman was promised the role of Sonmi-451, but had to drop out when she became pregnant]. The film was an idea in progress for around three or four years before production finally started, so it is clear how important and invested the three are in this project.

Despite the heart and love in the film, the presentation leaves something to be desired. The beginning tended to drag a bit with it’s switching between stories, but once things started developing further and you saw all of these actors spanning all of these different roles, it got really interesting and entertaining. The film seemed to be building towards something incredible, some connection that explained everything, but in the end, there was no fascinating revelation to tie everything together. Sure, the connections were made and made clearly, but it left some to be desired.

In the end, I think the scope was a little to broad for the Wachowski’s and Tykwer to efficiently handle and create a real best-movie contender. What they have done is create something that they really loved and made into a film that you might not find to be the best, but I think everyone will be left thinking about maybe not only about the complexities of the film but of it’s real life implications and theories, and I believe most everyone will want to see the film more than once to be able to make out all of the connections in the film.

My Rating

4/4 – Cloud Atlas will not have the highest critical ratings or win the best picture award, but it is a film with lasting power that leaves you thinking about not only the complexities or the film but the entire scope of human existence, and it’s importance in the world of Hollywood and independent film-making is huge.


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