Directed by: Andy & Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer
Written by: Andy & Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer
Cinematography by: Frank Griebe, John Toll
Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Sturgess,
Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Bae Doona
I’d love to provide a rundown of the basic plot, main characters, and actions that make up Cloud Atlas, but I don’t want to, or rather, I don’t think I have to, but more importantly, I don’t think I can do it any kind of justice. Look no further than its official synopsis: 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. I get it; that can sound extremely overwhelming, dare I say even pretentious, but if you’re honestly not even the slightest bit intrigued to see all that unfold (especially if this is all you saw and/or knew of the film), then I’d suggest you stop reading right now.
It was almost a year ago that I saw that extended six minute trailer about six interconnecting stories spanning six different timelines. That was enough of a glimpse to make me eagerly await the day that I could watch those six minutes turn into a nearly three hour film. In anticipation, I read the David Mitchell book it’s based upon, and absolutely devoured the score until it became ingrained into my every thought. Unfortunately, I did not get to witness the film during its initial run in the theater, and it would appear neither did many of you. Yet, six months later, not only have I finally seen Cloud Atlas, but I’ve reseen it, and reseen it, and every viewing gives me a newer, if not better appreciation for its intricacy, its beauty, and its sheer scope—each story at once standing apart, but continuously being woven together—relentless in its approach, yet never compromising on its vision.
A lot of that has to do with the actors and their commitment to that vision, from the always reliable Tom Hanks, to the absolute revelation that is Doona Bae; from the endearing Jim Sturgess and Ben Whishaw, to a highly effective Hugo Weaving, not to mention a charismatic Jim Broadbent; even Halle Berry delivers a subdued performance. To handle any one of these roles must have been a daunting task, but to juggle six of them, all various degrees of separation from one another is commendable to say the least. Sure, some of them are minor, or serve as nothing more than glorified cameos, but each one works and elicits a reaction and works towards the narrative as a whole. Most of that narrative’s success lies solely with its directors: Lana and Andy Wachowski, and Tom Tykwer. The Wachowski’s are no doubt household names due to The Matrix (1999), but Tykwer has his own somewhat underrated track record which includes Run Lola Run (1998) and The International (2009). A special and much needed honor needs to go to the film’s editors Alexander Berner and Chris Wehlisch. Together, they manage to tell six different stories as one, focusing on love, courage, and destiny, in the past, present, and future, creating a symphony of emotions. To their credit, it never feels rushed or unnecessary. In fact, I could watch each individual story play itself out in its entirety without cutting back and forth among the others. The fact that the film warrants multiple viewings doesn’t work against it; in fact, you’d be remiss not to watch it again and again. The film actively requires nothing more than your full, undivided attention, and I think that scares some people.
Absolutely nothing about this production screams easy. Hell, nothing about this production even reaches the level of cookie cutter we’ve come to accustom such big budget fare to. Perhaps that is why, I suppose, the average moviegoer refused to give this a film even a first look, let alone a second or a third. I’m not saying the film succeeds in everything it sets out to accomplish, but very rarely am I in sheer awe at a film’s sense of ambition. Surely something must be said when a film manages to not only exceed one’s expectations, but outright create them. We hear this all the time about cinema; that it’s an experience, that when powerful enough, can stay with you, and transcend the screen, and really make an impression on our lives and how our imagination sees and understands things. We hear it all the time, but how many times can we honestly say we actually experience it? How many of us can truly say that every film viewing experience we’ve had is akin to having seen something like Star Wars for the first time, or even The Matrix, where everything just clicks a certain way on both the screen and in our minds perfectly?
It’s Memorial Day weekend, and a lot of you will be making the difficult choice of whether or not to spend your hard earned money on Fast and Furious 6 or The Hangover Part III, and you’re all free to make whatever decision you like, but just think about this: movies like that are literally a dime a dozen, and if one fails, another one immediately takes its place, and no one’s the wiser. You could however make a third choice. You could seek out Cloud Atlas, a film that no one will probably attempt to ever make again, a true one of a kind in every sense of the word. I’m not even saying you have to like it, but you owe it to yourself to find out, and to not dismiss it because it seems to mash multiple genres and ideas together.
Don’t let them say I killed myself for love; had my infatuations, but we both know in our hearts who is the sole love of my short, bright life.