‘Cloud Atlas,’ the seemingly eternal artistic disaster, is an ambitious cinematic project that is both beautiful and mismanaged. It boasts some arresting scenes, heavyweight performances from a veteran cast led by Oscar winners Tom Hanks and Halle Berry and visually stunning cinematography, but its perpetual duration and its disjointed narrative provide for an unfulfilling experience, ergo, a few huffed yawns. For anyone paying the price of a $14 ticket, at least in New York, you are going to end up having to spend perhaps another $28 in multiple viewings just to fully “get it”.
According to the production notes, the movie, based on the novel by author David Mitchell, is about a single story that unfolds in multiple timelines over the span of 500 years. Characters meet and reunite from one life to the next. Born and reborn. As the consequences of their actions and choices impact one another through the past, the present and the distant future, one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and a single act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.
In other words, this almost 3 hour film, tells the tale of 6 stories in 6 different eras, in the past, present and future, where the characters actions have either damaging or beneficial consequences in the future.
Directors Lana Wachowski, Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer have made a movie with an immeasurable intellectual arc that defies the popular and cultural taste of the times. Fast paced, straight lined plots with coherent plot twists is what most moviegoers want for the price of their movie ticket. When it is too much to decipher, they’re enjoyment fizzles out. You have to ask yourself, what type of moviegoer are you? Only then can you make a wise decision of whether to see this film or not.
David Mitchell’s book is already confusing to many readers, so I’m not surprised the adaptation is as fuzzy as it is. What most affects me is the order in which the six stories are presented. They are conveyed in a structure full of flashback and flash-forwards that can easily exasperate more than a few spectators. Some of the stories are soporiferous and the dialogue in others are down right undecipherable. Overall, you don’t know which parts are continuous or an which ones aren’t. Tack on to that, some tawdry makeup and the directors have “a hole lot of esplainin’ tu du.”
The saving grace of ‘Cloud Atlas’ are the magnificent performances. No matter how puzzling the film is, this movie is an actor’s dream. Hanks along with other cast members perform multiple roles, even those of Asian characters which have raised the ire of Asian organizations. Why are Jim Sturgess and James D’Arcy, caucasian British actors, playing the parts of Asians? The same happened with Latinos. There was a scene where Hugo Weaving asked a “Mexican woman” where a certain character had hidden. The “Mexicana” in question was South Korean actress Doona Bae who was under heavy latex makeup. The question we all ask is – why couldn’t we use native actors to play those roles? Obviously, this wasn’t something personally directed at Asians and Latinos. The filmmakers deliberately wanted the lead actors to resemble the diverse characters in order for the audience to know they were reincarnated. To me it worked, but it was distracting and a bit off. Nevertheless, the cast must’ve had a ball playing so many people.
Halle Berry actually was given some Spanish dialogue that was subtitled with her she exchanged with Doona Bae. Berry did well and her pronounciation was clear. I get a kick out if it when non Hispanic actors speak my language. Some butcher it, but some others do it well, such as Berry.
Because of the way the money was raised, ‘Cloud Atlas’ is considered an independent movie, perhaps the most expensive in film history with an estimated 100 million tag. I don’t see it winning any Oscars. You can argue it might get nominated in the visuals and special effects category, but even that is a tough battle knowing “The Avengers” is the favorite. It is unfortunate but this will be an enormous and extensive flop that many involved in will be reeling from for a long period, including your time and money.