Monday, May 13, 2013

Cloud Atlas

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Or we can go get a soda.  Do you want a soda? 

Cloud Atlas – 4 out of 5

Based on the novel by David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas is quite possibly one of the most ambitious films I have ever seen in my life. Brought to you by three directors (a feat almost completely unheard of in the world of cinema), the film is unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed but does that make it a good thing? Wouldn’t it just have been easier to release another remake, reboot or sequel? Of course, if you looked at my score, obvious the gambit the directors took paid off.

And I don't care how good you were in this one, Halle Berry...nothing will
ever erase the memory of Catwoman.

Cloud Atlas is not an easy film to sum up in a bite-sized synopsis because it has layers (like an onion or some other sort of thing that has layers—like my appreciate for the candy Dots). The film tells 6 different stories that span the course of time and are set in various parts of the world. Each story is connected in some facet with another story and while they each may seem completely different, their similarities become more apparent as the near 3 hour running length moves forward.

"Hello?  I'm just trying to find more of the 70s in this room..."

One story takes place in the South Pacific in 1849 where a lawyer, at the behest of his father-in-law, conducts some business in the slave trade but soon learns the human side of this horrible endeavor after a slave sneaks aboard his ship destined for home. The next story takes place in England in 1936 where two composers get to work on what will be the greatest piece of music of their entire careers; “The Cloud Atlas Sextet.” The third story is set in California in 1973 where a journalist is trying to expose a nefarious plot that involves a nuclear power plant.

This is how the film portrayed the 1840s.  They may have taken some
historical liberties.

"So...are we going to Mordor?  I've heard one can
just walk into that least, that's what I've

Another tale is in the UK in 2012 where a writer gets a boom in fame after his mob boss financier murders a critic. However, even in prison he still wants his fair share (or unfair share because he’s a freaking mob boss) of the book’s wealth and the writer goes on the run only to be tricked into checking into a retirement home by his brother and now he just wants to escape the clutches of a villainous Hugo Weaving in drag. Moving ahead in time, the next story takes place in Neo Seoul in 2144 where a clone is set for execution after being the inspiration for a rebellion. Finally, the last story takes place further in the future (as the film states, “106 Winters after The Fall”) where mankind is nearly extinct and a small tribe of men are visited by the only possessors of technology and are on their way to the Cloud Atlas, a communications array set in the valley the tribe lives in; that, they hope, will be able to reach the far out colonies of Earth.

Then things get sexy...

Each of these stories are played out simultaneously during the film—okay, well not simultaneously because that would be confusing as all hell…more confusing then the end product that is Cloud Atlas. Each of these stories are intertwined together and start to parallel and have impacts on each other as the film progresses and becomes all the more addicting to watch; it’s one of the film’s strongest aspects. Even more amazing is that each story is strong enough to be its own film and I found that to be pretty damn cool and something that really showed how developed not only Mitchell’s source material was but how well they developed the adaptation. Every story is incredibly rich with backstory that the film doesn’t actually have to tell you anything about the era it is taking place in because, thanks to the direction of the film’s three directors, you instantly figure out what is going on, what has happened and what is going to take place in the time period the film places you in.

And Keith David is in this film.  Keith David; the voice of Goliath and fighter
of The Roddy Piper.

One of the most unique aspects of the film is the fact that every actor plays several roles in the film and each role is about as different as they can be—some even jump races, genders and nationality in their roles. For example, we get to hear Hugh Grant with an American accent in the film and see Hugo Weaving in drag (something we haven’t experienced since The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert). Either this was actually happening in the movie or I was high as balls the other night. While it is just incredible to see such actors as Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, Keith David and Susan Sarandon play several parts (and all parts that are very drastically different) there is an element to this dynamic that gets…weird.

He just saw how he looks as a woman in this movie.  Don't get him wrong,
he'd still do himself...

To achieve the effect of making the characters different, it’s no surprise that make-up was used. When this is going from era to era (or man to woman in some cases) the end results isn’t that jarring but when there is a jump from race to race, things get strange. For example, we see Caucasian actors playing Asian characters in the Neo Seoul story and they look less like inhabitants of the East and more like a cheap alien race from a Sci-Fi film.

Tom Hanks as the mob boss also looks like an alien, for that matter.

The longer you stare at Hugo Weaving as a woman,
the more aroused you will become.

The discomfort that comes from weird make-up is easy to look past when you take into consideration the film is meant to be a group of stories where impacts from the past, future and present all have outcomes in the other stories and I started to look at these character not like they are the same people reincarnated but like the same lineage that are all connected in some way—that, for the most part, helps to justify the very disturbing way they Asianified some of the actors.

The De-Asianifying process tends to make the person look like a demon trying
to pass for a human.

The directors (The Wachowski siblings—Andy and Lana—and Tom Tykwer) really wove together something magical with this film as they were able to take stories that all existed in drastically different eras and make them all work together. Even their directing styles (Andy and Lana directed the stories that take place in 1848, 2144 and the “after The Fall,” while Tykwer directed the stories taking place in 1936, 1973 and 2012) are all drastically different and unique but all came together quite well to make a film that was ├╝ber-engaging. The sheer fact alone that this movie has a story taking place when an entire race was used as slaves AND during a time that has yet to come and we have flying cars and clones to serve us our junk food and they both somehow worked in concert together is amazing in and of itself.

In the future, no one finds any joy drinking Capri Suns.

Sadly, this movie ended up bombing at the box office. With a budget of over 100 million dollars, the film is the most expensive indie film to date but it only ended up making about 24 mil in the theaters. This movie approached John Carter levels of bombing (Carter cost over 250 million and only made 73 million and resulted in a CEO stepping down—possibly from embarrassment over that p.o.s.) but unlike Carter, this movie has amazing special effects, a story that doesn’t make you fall asleep and acting that is just outright incredible.

About as incredible as the collar on Hugh Grant's shirt.

Overall, I think I have to watch Cloud Atlas several times to truly appreciate all the work that went into the film. That isn't to say that I didn’t enjoy it after one viewing (because I totally did) but the film is made on such a scope with such detail and intricacies that to truly appreciate the ambition that was steering and powering this thing several viewings have to be utilized. I’m also going to use this as an excuse to get out of things and plans from now on. “Sorry, I can’t make it to Gram-gram’s funeral because I have to watch Cloud Atlas again…you know, so I can fully appreciate all the dedication that when into the movie.”

Ironically, it was doing this that caused my Gram-gram's death.

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