Cloud Atlas Navigates Time
CLOUD ATLAS review
Published: Friday, October 26, 2012
Updated: Saturday, October 27, 2012 21:10
Past lives. This has been a topic amongst philosophers, but it is such a difficult question that no one has been able to answer it perfectly. The Wachowskis’ (with help from director Tom Tykwer) newest science fiction epic, Cloud Atlas, tries to answer the questions surrounding the topic. The film never truly answers them, yet showcases some interesting and incredible worlds and stories.
Cloud Atlas’s story is a little difficult to follow at first, as all six of the main stories are being told simultaneously. It is framed by an old, scarred man (Tom Hanks), who tells the story of several people who are interconnected throughout time. One story is about a young man named Adam Ewing (Jim Sturgess) who is making a trip to San Francisco in the 19th century, where he befriends a slave (David Gyasi); another story is about a young composer named Robert Frobisher (Ben Whishaw) who deals with problems with his mentor and missing his friend, Rufus Sixsmith (James D'Arcy); Halle Berry stars as a columnist investigating a nuclear power plant, while being pursued by a hired gun; a comedic story involving a silly old English man named Timothy Cavendish (Jim Broadbent) includes Cavendish trying to escape a nursing home; a dystopian science fiction story has a cloned fast food worker named Sonmi-451 (Donna Bae) escaping her mundane life to discover a the world around her; and the last story features a tribesman named Zachary Bailey (Hanks) dealing with an intelligent technologically advanced human (Berry) who wants to uncover the past. All of these actors, along with Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, and Hugo Weaving, return in each story as a completely different character, with Weaving and Grant playing the villains in each story, underlining the film’s theme of past lives.
Where the film shines is in its technical aspects. The settings in each story are incredible to look at and the viewer will constantly be treated to new sets and locations. The film really transports the audience into that world. From the future of Neo Seoul to the jungle of the post-apocalypse, to the scenes in the 19th century, all the locations look authentic. The makeup and costumes are perfect for each scene, with the characters fitting right in with the sets. The special effects also work well, blending in seamlessly.
The actors' performances carry the film well, and it challenges their range. Each actor plays at least three or more different characters, with their own distinct personalities. For example, Halle Berry goes from playing the daughter of a famous journalist in the 1970s to an old Korean doctor in the future, giving a great performance with each. With the incredible art direction and characters being interesting, it keeps the audience on the edge of their seats.
Unfortunately, the film isn’t as close to perfection with its acting confusion and writing. With each actor playing a different character, their costumes and makeup have to make them appear to look different. The results are mixed. Hugo Weaving goes from being a threatening villain to looking like a goofy SNL character, and Tom Hanks is over-the-top in a good portion of the movie. The story with Timothy Cavendish is written to be comedic, but winds up juxtaposed with some dramatic acting that has no place in a comedic story like this. There are some loose ends with Wishaw’s story too. Having each story jump from place to place, it can be hard to follow any the whole way through with the three hour run time.
Overall, though, Cloud Atlas is not to be missed. The special effects and costumes look amazing and the story is interesting enough to keep any viewer enchanted. Even though there was some mediocre and goofy acting and minor story problems, the rest of the film is great. Cloud Atlas is thought provoking and, in the end, offers something new to movie goers.