Directors: Tom Tykwer, Lana Wachowski, Andy Wachowski
Cast: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Ben Whishaw, Hugo Weaving, Hugh Grant
Plot: One soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.
Note from LukeBbtt: Sorry I am unable to review Safe Haven as promised, but I have found myself unable to visit the cinema this week. So, to keep the website going, I shall leave you in the capable hands of Piran Mark with a review of Cloud Atlas.
This film has been hanging around America for a while now and we haven’t been hearing many good things about it. It is a shame, because if this film got the reception it has in the UK in America, Cloud Atlas would have definitely picked up the Make-Up award in the Oscars. It also deserves credit for being the most expensive independent film ever created. So right from the off, I was expecting big things from this movie.
The trailer didn’t really give us much to rely on. I was expecting the six stories, but I assumed they would be told in a linear fashion. This was not the case. The six stories are told at the same time, slowly connecting themselves to each other. It begins with a guy on a boat with some slaves, but by the end of the movie, we find ourselves in a post-apocalyptic future. It is a film with a massive range.
In order to handle the immense task of bringing these stories to life are joint directors. The Wachowski twins direct the 1849, 2144 and 2321 segments of the story, while Tom Tykwer is left in charge of the scenes in 1936, 1973 and 2012. I am of two minds whether this worked or not. On one hand, it did keep the film fresh, something that is needed when you are dealing with what is essentially six short films. However, the directors each have their own styles, which was occasionally noticeable. At times, I was very aware that it was several stories edited together.
The key thing you notice about this film (as I am sure you have heard), that the stories feature the same actors playing different roles. 75% of the time I had no idea who I was watching. It wasn’t until the end credits rolled that I realised that for a good portion of the movie Halle Berry had been playing an old Asian doctor. Again, the make-up artists deserve so much more credit that what the Oscars gave them. When you have gotten past the fact that the actors are going to be appearing in all manner of forms, you begin to appreciate how talented the actors are. Hugh Grant was an actor I would never have expected to have been cast in the role of a villain, but he does the parts justice. I would like to have seen more of his cannibal character, although the story understandably had to move on from those scenes fairly quick.
Tom Hanks is put in charge with the job of leading actor, although this isn’t really the kind of movie that has a main character. He does play the old man at the start, who becomes the framing device, connecting all of these stories. (Although, looking back, I don’t see how he would have been able to know every detail of those stories!) Instantly, we expect a good movie, because Tom Hanks has one of the most impressive filmographies in Hollywood. Overall, he was good, but there is so much going on, this won’t be remembered as one of his best performances.
Halle Berry probably manages to come out on top with all of these great actors. She is fantastic in her main role, although her performance never really comes through with some of her smaller roles. Cloud Atlas also boasts the fact that it had the audacity to cast Halle Berry as one of the extras in one of the short stories (this movie is going to become amazing for the trivia questions). Another factor I liked was the way that the film never played on the fact that the actors were playing a different ethnicity. Sure, Halle Berry was white for one point of the film, but attention was never drawn to it. Of course we were aware, but the film made us momentarily forget that her skin colour was not natural.
There was also one surprisingly gruesome bit in the post-apocalyptic storyline. There is a scene where there are several skinned people hanging from the ceiling. It was a shocking moment, as I had not been expecting it. Also, while we are talking about that era of the film, I had a slight problem with the language. By 2321, language has evolved. It was a nice touch and I am glad that the movie referenced this. However, when your appreciation dies down, it begins to get annoying. When the movie starts, it takes a while to grow accustomed to it. Midway through, you learn to appreciate it. However, by the end, you are prepared to kill someone, if you hear the words ‘true-true’ one more time.
Sadly, by the end of the film, it began to get too hard to keep track of. There were far too many characters and our attention span was really put to the test. It was also very easy to miss some of the jumps in the story: they could definitely have been clearer. On the bright side, it has encouraged me to read the book. This is definitely a film for the fans of the Cloud Atlas book. Although I liked this film, I have to admit it was long and complicated. It is fairly easy to see why people will hate this movie.
Final Verdict: Fun to watch and I did enjoy the sense of achievement that came at the end of it. However, this film was a little heavy.