Film: ‘Cloud Atlas’ breaks new ground

By Will Ashton |
Cloud Atlas  | Directed by Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski | Rated R
RATING: 3.5/5

Whether you love or hate Cloud Atlas, you cannot deny that the film is incredibly ambitious.

Based on the book of the same name by David Mitchell, this tale tells six different stories in six different times interconnected together at one time, exploring how the actions of individual lives impact each other in the past, present and the future. It demonstrates how the souls of bad people grow into heroes and how good deeds ripple into uprisings. A breakdown of this plot would be as long as this review, probably even longer, so perhaps it is best that you just experience this film for yourself.

Cloud Atlas is unlike any film that I have ever seen, and I mean that in the best way possible. It breaks and pushes boundaries in ways very, very few films have ever even attempted before, and above all else I applaud directors Lana and Andy Wachowski (The Matrix) and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) for making this film.

Ambition doesn’t equal success, though, so the question remains whether or not their efforts were worth their four-year struggle to bring this epic tale to the screen.  To this, I will say yes, this is a good movie, but only to a certain point. In terms of scope and visuals, Cloud Atlas is incredible. But in story, there are some problems.

Cloud Atlas is likely to become the most controversial movie that comes out this year. In the film community, it will probably become this year’s The Tree of Life, a film that I consider to be the best of 2011. At three hours in length, and six stories thrown at you at once, I am curious how general audiences will respond to this movie, and more importantly how they will react at the box office.

Being the pessimistic person I am, I feel that this film is unlikely to earn back its $100+ million budget, simply because it’ll probably be too much for general audiences to appreciate.

Which is truly a shame, because I wish more movies would push boundaries like this and explore new territories in filmmaking, rather than make another pointless sequel or pointless remake for audience appeal.

With that said, like I mentioned before, I still don’t consider this film to be the masterpiece some claim it to be. In balancing six different stories, in six different times, all with different tones, messages, and various ideas throughout, the fact of the matter is there’s just too much here to get completely right. Even with three directors at the helm, this is a film that I feel even Stanley Kubrick probably could not have gotten completely right.

By creating this gigantic balancing act, various plot points, character motivations, and possible character developments slip into the cracks. Now, of course, I have only seen this movie once, so it’s entirely possible that I missed some details simply because this was my first time experiencing this film.

Yet I still feel that there are important plot points and character traits throughout the film that get either underexplored or not addressed at all. As much as it will probably bug the fans of the book, perhaps it would have been best to have dropped a storyline or two and have focused more on making their stories tighter and more effective.

Beyond this, though, the film is a success because not only does it get more things right than wrong, but in terms of scope and story, this movie changes film history.  Not since, most likely, The Lord of the Rings movies has a studio film attempted something as daunting and unprecedented as Cloud Atlas. Although they may not be perfect, each story is well made, engaging, and visually stunning. In fact, it’s almost disappointing at times that the movie keeps jumping around because as the film progresses, you get more and more into each story being told.

Each primary actor in this film —which includes Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Donna Bae, Jim Sturgess, Hugh Grant, Hugo Weaving, Susan Sarandon, Ben Whishaw, James D’Arcy, and Keith David — all play up to six different characters throughout the movie.  The mak-up and acting from all of them, particularly Hanks, Weaving, and Broadbent, can be quite incredible at times. Each of them play different genders and races throughout the movie, and as actors, it creates moments that I never, ever thought I would see come from many of them in a film.

At the end of the year, this will be a movie that will be anywhere from people’s top five of the year to being some people’s worst film of the year, but whatever you end up feeling, Cloud Atlas is worth the trip to explore. It’s an incredible piece of filmmaking, and while it may not end up reaching greatness for me, it’ll definitely be a film that I won’t forget.


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