Cloud Atlas * * * * 1/2

20130221-114234.jpg

Directors: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer.
Screenplay: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer.
Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Ben Wishaw, Jim Broadbent, Jim Sturgees, Hugh Grant, Susan Sarandon, James D’Arcy, Hugo Weaving, Doona Bae, Keith David, David Gyasi, Xun Zhou, Gary McCormack, David Mitchell.

Recently, Yann Martel’s novel “Life Of Pi” made it to the silver screen after an exemplary adaptation by director Ang Lee. However, the novel itself had been deemed ‘unfilmable’ beforehand. There are many literary works that have come under this assumption and David Mitchell’s Booker Prize-nominated novel Cloud Atlas is another. The reception of this film has been very mixed but, give or take, the odd discrepancy and noodle scratching moment, this is an impressively successful endeavour that proves, once again, that the ability to transfer page to screen is entirely possible and vibrantly alive.

1849: a Pacific ocean voyage that unearths a stowaway slave.
1936: an inspirational composition of classical music in Edinburgh.
1973: a manuscript that invites a dangerous conspiracy in San Francisco.
2012: a publisher goes into hiding in a nursing home, fearing for his life.
2144: a totalitarian regime in futuristic Korea gives birth to a rebellious clone.
2321: a post-apocalyptic Hawaii that leads to the cosmos…
These are the six stories that connect life, the universe and everything as past, present and future interlace with one another and humankind struggle to make sense of their existence.

What better way to tell a story than to begin it in the ancient way? An old man sitting around a campfire with scars on his face and wisdom on his tongue. That’s exactly what the trio of directors Andy and Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer have done and it sets the perfect opening to an expansive, spectacular, hugely ambitious and visual, storytelling adventure. It’s so vast and labyrinthine that it’s hard to even begin to break it down. It works on so many levels; from the metaphorical to allegorical, as well as, the tangential and does so while setting it in six different centuries (from the 19th to the 24th) and having the same actors play several different roles throughout. It’s difficult to find your feet and it could take at least an hour before you even get a hint or actually begin to grasp anything that’s going on. Once the narrative strands do come together, though, the film becomes a completely immersive experience.
It poses questions as to the meaning of our existence and the direct relation we have to one another and whether our experiences in life are just luck or predestined by means of Karma, reincarnation or simply through a greater, unknown, connection within the universe. In other words, it explores the complex questions and search for answers that have been pondered from time immemorial. It also incorporates the influence of art, television and how easily deities can be constructed and how, essentially, humankind is their own worst enemy. There will certainly be more questions than answers throughout this journey but what this film does, is run with life’s conundrums, meanwhile freeing itself from narrative conventions and hits you from six different angles all at once. It really is astoundingly complex stuff.
Now, I don’t profess to understand Cloud Atlas in it’s entirety. I did manage to get a reasonably good handle on it’s elaborate tapestry but it’s a film that requires, at least, a couple of viewings to fully grasp. The utmost patience and concentration is essential and if you happen to switch off for a second – throughout it’s almost three hour long running time – then it will, ruthlessly, leave you behind. You have been warned: this film will pickle your brain for weeks. It has confounded many; so much so, that it’s been written off as disappointing or a pretentious mess. I, on the other hand, strongly believe that it should not be ignored. The only drawbacks I found were the tenuous linking between a couple of the stories and the tone of the film shifted a little uneasily in places. Nevertheless, this is one of the most ambitious, intelligent and beautifully constructed film’s for quite some time and, if invested in, will bring many rewards.

I don’t know why I’d choose to paraphrase at this point other than to sum up this film (and my review) by leaving you with the words of a wiser fellar than myself: “I guess that’s the way the whole durned human comedy keeps perpetuatin’ it-self, down through the generations, westward the wagons, across the sands a time until – aw, look at me, I’m ramblin’ again… Catch ya further on down the trail“.

Mark Walker

20130221-114305.jpg

Advertisements

65 Responses to “Cloud Atlas * * * * 1/2”

  1. Ambitious indeed, I’m really glad you liked it Mark. I did as well. I’m looking forward to watching it one more time, I think it needs multiple viewings to fully appreciate the complexities of the plot.

    Like

  2. Great review, Mark! I’ve been debating watching this – I read the book back when I was still in school and loved it, but like you said – when I heard about them making a film of it, my first thought was -how?! So i’ll book tickets next week to see this and make sure i have my wits about me when I go. Hopefully having read the book will help πŸ™‚

    Like

    • Thanks Georgina. Admittedly, I never read the book so I can’t comment on whether that will be beneficial or not. I tend to find when you have read the book beforehand the film rarely lives up to it. Still, if you keep an open mind, you never know. I hear that there are some differences.

      Like

  3. Think i’m off to see this next week and I wasn’t hugely looking forward to it but I am very much so now after reading a few favourable reviews. Looks pretty epic. Great review mate.

    Like

    • Thanks Chris. Most of the reviews I’d read where not favourable at all. A lot of people where classing this as a stinker. I didn’t think so. I was totally gripped. It demands a very high level of concentration but absolutely worth it.

      Like

  4. Ok, so you were right my friend. We do disagree on this one! LOL. But this is probably the best defense of the film that I’ve read period! I just can’t get behind the film. But it is polarizing. It’s interesting – there doesn’t seen to be many people in the middle. People either love it or they’re disappointed. Interesting.

    Like

    • Haha! Told you we wouldn’t agree. Thanks for the kind words though bro. I found it quite hard writing about it. It was so vast that I couldn’t quite get my thoughts together. I’ll definitely be watching it again. It’s one of my favourites of the year.

      Like

  5. Great review im glad you liked it as much as I did. Its a fantastic movie that I saw twice and definitely caught some things I missed the first time. This one will definitely be a blu ray purchase.

    Like

    • Thanks Issy. I’m looking forward to seeing it again as there’s no doubt that I’ve missed some things. This has been really unfairly treated by many critics and filmgoers so far. I’ll keep singing it’s praises, though. Great film.

      Like

  6. Glad to hear how much you enjoyed the film, Mark. Excellent review.

    Like

  7. I want to see this too – when I have a spare five or six hours. It’s very difficult for me to sit still for one hour much less three, so this would take me all day. Nice work!!

    Like

  8. Good review Mark. It’s a long movie, but it still kept my interest and had me wondering just how all of these stories were going to converge at the end. Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed even though I didn’t feel an emotional-connection to it whatsoever.

    Like

    • Cheers Dan. Despite the running time, it surprisingly flew in. I completely entered into it. It was frustrating sometimes as just when you thought you were on track, it sidetracked you again. Fantastic film, though. I was thoroughly impressed.

      Like

  9. Not seen much positive stuff for this so wasnt rushing to see it. Nice to see you say good things though dude, might have to watch it now πŸ™‚

    Like

  10. ray brayne Says:

    It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma!
    But screw it, forget all that. How could you ever be sure what you thought it was, was right? The all important thing is how terrific the individual stories are. I admit it’s a bit difficult because you’re in one story then you flash to another, but there are connecting bits, like a strange birthmark and a driving need for freedom. It was just so different and mesmerizing. If you lost tract of one story, when you got back, it was a real “Oh Yeah!” moment. A great movie. Be nice on Disc for repeat viewings. Nice write up, as always Mark.

    Like

    • Glad to hear it worked for you as well Ray. I thought it was astounding stuff. Each individual story was great and it’s brilliant to see a portmanteau type of film be a success. These type of film’s with numerous directors rarely ever work but this was just sublime, brain teasing stuff.

      Like

  11. Great review Mark! I like that you broke down the timeline of the multiple stories.

    I appreciate this film too, despite not fully understanding all the metaphors and hidden meaning. I like some of the stories better than others, not too fond of Hanks and Berry as I could hardly understand what the heck they’re saying!

    My favorite segment is the love story set in the futuristic society Neo Seoul w/ Jim Sturgess, it was quite emotional (though again the nudity is not necessary IMO).

    I might rewatch this at some point, I agree that perhaps a second viewing we may get a better grasp at it.

    Like

    • Thanks Ruth. Breaking down the individual stories was the easy part. It was linking them that was difficult at times πŸ˜‰

      Such a cleverly contracted film that was edited with consummate skill. My favourite segment was the Korean futuristic one a well. I actually enjoyed them all but of I had to pick, it’d be that.

      There’s no doubt that I’ll be revisiting this. It may get a higher rating than I’ve gave it already. I was blown away by it.

      Like

      • Ahahaha, yeah the linking was tough wasn’t it? It doesn’t help that some of the characters are sooo unintelligible, like they’re speaking gibberish for no reason!

        I don’t know how I’d feel seeing it a second time but yeah, visually it was breathtaking.

        Like

      • I found them hard to understand also. Followed them for the most part though. They managed to inject a bit of humour into the Scottish part as well. I was chuckling at that point in the Scottish pub. πŸ˜‰

        Like

  12. Great review. I now hate myself for missing this bad boy in theaters. Can’t wait for the DVD release. Nay, BLU-RAY.

    Like

    • Cheers Nick! I’m sure it’ll work just as well on Blu Ray. It is a beautifully made and visual film but as good as the visuals are, it’s the story that fully grips. If anything, it’s hard to fully appreciate the visuals as you can’t stop thinking about how it all fits together.

      Like

  13. I hated this film, most ambitious film ever made, and it’s still unfilmable! And Life of Pi is another story, Lee’s masterpiece is like he directed it with no hurdles or any problems, i would see this again if i have extra 20 years of my life πŸ™‚

    Like

    • Haha! To each their own Louise. I know this didn’t work for everyone but I was totally taken by it. Great storytelling delivered with a high degree of skill. I’m also sucker for this type of existential material.

      Like

  14. As much as I appreciate you throwing some Lebowski into the mix, I have to disagree on the movie… it’s overly complicated for little payoff. The stories dont connect easily and a number of them wouldnt be worth much if you cut them out and had them stand alone as a stand alone film.

    I didnt hate it, it was still a decent watch. And I do applaud the effort. But on the whole, this movie is a bit of a mess. 😦

    Like

    • Glad to see that you noticed the quote Fogs. πŸ˜‰
      In all honesty, I expected to hate this. I expected it to be a mess but it turned out to be quite the opposite for me. The segments probably wouldn’t stand alone. I agree with you there but they’re not supposed to either. Portmanteau movies like Four Rooms or The Twilight Zone movie for example have each story stand alone and this type of format has proven to very rarely work. I’m glad the stories where all intertwined, it really kept me on my feet. I can completely understand people not taking to the film but it really hit the spot for me. Don’t get me wrong, I did question it many times throughout but ultimately, when it was all over, I realised that I’d been taken on quite a journey. Now that’s storytelling!

      Like

  15. hmmmm maybe I will end up giving this one a watch after all. I have heard some mixed reviews but the sooner this one is streaming the sooner I will watch it.

    love that quote from the stranger ….

    Like

    • Cheers Adam. It’s one of those movies that will either work for you or not but it still has to be seen. Even if it doesn’t work, it’s worth watching for the sheer audacity of it’s structure.

      Glad to hear you notice the stranger’s word also. I found the stranger summed up what this movies about in very few words. πŸ™‚

      Like

  16. Of the various reviews I’ve read for this movie, I think your intrigued me the most. You make it sound so rich, philosophical, and thought-provoking.

    Like

    • If I’ve managed to convey all those things then my work here is done. LOL πŸ˜‰
      That’s exactly how I found it. It’s all of those things and quite challenging into the bargain. Thank you for the compliment Steph. I hope you like it as much as I did.

      Like

  17. nice review Mark. Been waiting for this for ages but off my feet (hence no posts) at the min, think it looks excellent. This kind of cross time film always gets my attention. It was always on my list and your review has cemented it just the more πŸ˜‰

    Like

    • Cheers buddy! I’m a sucker for this type of stuff myself. I love anything that’s remotely philosophical and this most certainly is. I know how it with time and juggling things man, but I hope you get a chance to see it soon.

      Like

      • Thanks Mark, juggling ill health my man, I have watched a ton of stuff though so expect a deluge πŸ™‚ next week me thinks and i will see if i can pick up on its philosophy in my review, I love that kind of stuff too.

        Like

      • Sorry to hear about the health bud. Get yerself cosy. Wee blanket on the couch and watch as much as you can. I’ve watched plenty of stuff recently. Really trying to get the reviews out quick but it’s not happening. When they do, I feel like I’m not entirely getting the critique right. It’s hard work this movie watching stuff πŸ˜‰

        Like

      • ha ha I hear ya, I try not to rush and I focus on punchy writing that doesn’t over critique. sometimes a step away for a bit always helps me -then back to it. Many of the essays i see out there disengage me and the longer they go the more critical they get, this is only my own personal view. The people I follow the most have it spot on. I have worked on getting concise since my own essays before time (which is extremely hard). I save my longer reviews for the ones I really love and then its about writing it more for me, its personal i guess. I think you have a good balance Mark, if my view counts for anything.They’re structured and engaging πŸ™‚

        Like

      • Very kind words my man. Thank you. I’ve noticed that yours have become more concise. I remember we had a discussion about this in the past. Ironically, I think mine are becoming longer but I do find if you focus more on the points at hand without complete elaboration then the film itself can becoming more intriguing for people. Problem is, I find that I’m elaborating more now, when I didn’t in the past. LOL.

        Like

      • I agree, state the point and move on. our biggest critics are ourselves, is generally a good rule, I am happy with much of what i post. again i see too much elaboration and telling of the plot so i total agree on holding back a bit. In your case Mark it always feels relevant, so rather than elaboration you’re just stating your feelings, I could tell you really loved this movie and good on ya! I got some meaty reviews to come so tell me when i post if I’m going on lol

        Like

      • I’ll definitely let you know if your rambling man! πŸ˜‰ I’m currently writing a review on The Master and hopefully post very soon. I feel like I’m rambling on that but I’d appreciate your opinion when it does get posted. The more I look at my recent reviews, the more I’m noticing a certain length that I’m not too happy about. Concise has always been my angle and I have a fear that I’m getting carried away with my own ego and thoughts. Once again though, I appreciate your kind comments. You are my litmus test! LOL πŸ˜‰

        Like

      • Hey thanks, ditto πŸ˜‰ I will let you know, that’s a beast to tackle I wager. I have drafts of usual suspects, glengarry Glen Ross, oldboy, the guard, biberian sound studio and the not so revered the objective, so concise has certainly been tricky. You too can be my litmus test, always a pleasure Mark.

        Like

      • Those are some great film’s you mention there. I’ve already done Glengarry Glen Ross and The Guard and I also have a draft of Berberian Sound Studio. Look forward to your take on those man.

        Like

  18. Great review Mark. You are spot on with the bedding in time. It took me about 75 minutes to really get what was going on. It kind of fell into place then and I really enjoyed it. I was surprised that it didn’t get any Oscar recognition in any technical category. The film looked superb. My review is in the works but I may watch it again before finalising it.

    Like

    • Cheers John. I questioned whether I should watch it again before posting my review but i’ve got such a backlog to get through. Decided to just go ahead with what I had. Great film. I look forward to what you have to say on it.

      Like

  19. I just watched this and loved it a ton. Haven’t written about it yet, but it’s coming soon. I can’t understand why it was bashed in US and didn’t get any Oscar nominations. I thouht it was marvelous in so many ways.

    Like

    • I couldn’t agree more with you Jessica. This was an absolutely superb film and without a doubt it’s one if my favourites of the year. It’s shameful how much this has been overlooked and criticised. It wasn’t my absolute favourite of the year but if certainly the most impressive. Glad to hear you liked it as well Jessica and nice to see you dropping by again. Thanks! πŸ™‚

      Like

  20. Popcorn Nights Says:

    Hi Mark, nice review. I’m hoping to see this at some point in the next week and I’m looking forward to it as I really enjoyed the book. Just thinking of the scope of it…wow. I’m very hopeful even though the reviews have been mixed as you mention above…I’d sooner watch a any film that really tries for something extraordinary even if it doesn’t quite make it than a safe but decent bankable hour and a half that’s been done a thousand times before.

    Like

    • Hey man! Thanks very much. Admittedly, I never read the book so I honestly can’t compare but I was totally blown away with it. I totally agree on your outlook. It does mean something when a film really stretches the medium and reaches for something bigger. If it doesn’t make it then at least you can say it tried. This tries and succeeds. Many disagree but this is the most ambitious and most impressive film of the year for me. Not quite the best of the year but definitely a very memorable effort. I loved it.

      Like

  21. Great review, Mark. I didn’t love this one. Didn’t suffer like many did, since I was somewhat entertained and the long running time didn’t really bother me, but this was a miexd bag, regarding the riting, the performances, even the makeup. I prefered Tykwer’s work over the Wachowskis’.

    Like

    • Thanks Fernando. This was the biggest surprise of the year for me. I’d heard so many bad things about it but it took me on it’s journey and that was entirely the point. I thought if was fantastic and would make my personal top ten of the year.

      Like

  22. Chris Walker Says:

    I watched this yesterday; first of all an execetionjal, unique film. I agree with your statement about the first hour were you struggle to grasp the multitude of concepts, characters and plot lines, it’s overwhelming at times. You didn’t really discuss your opinion on the actors. I thought all were convincing some more than others. From Tom Hanks’ comical Irish thug (accent was brilliant), to Ben Whishaw’s captivating performance (a brilliant rising star) and Hugo Weaving’s menacing performance of each antagonist. My favorite moments in the film were when you are struck with the realization of how the plot lines are linked. Anyway Mark brilliant review on a particularly difficult film to review. This is defiantly a film to buy and re-watch several times.

    Like

    • Marvellous movie Chris. I reckon the criticisms it has received are unwarranted. I’ve not seen a more ambitious film in long time. I did enjoy the performances. Some more so than others but you rightly point out Hugo Weaving. He was brilliant and believe it or not I actually enjoyed Hugh Grant for a change (didn’t think I’d ever hear myself saying that). Glad to hear you got into it as well. Definitely one for further viewings. I don’t think once is anywhere near enough. Cheers Chris.

      Like

  23. Now that I’ve written my own little piece I finally got to read yours. What a lovely write-up! I’m glad that you share my passion for this movie. It sounds as if you’ve seen it several times. I’d really love to do that as well. On a big screen ofc!

    Like

    • Nice to see you stop by Jessica. I noticed you have a review up. I’ll pop over and have a read. I’ve only seen this once but I mulled it over and over in my head. It’s one of those film’s that you don’t know where to start writing. I loved it though. It’s one of the most challenging I’ve seen of recent times.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: