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Rated R for violence, language, nudity, adult content and some disturbing sequences
posted Nov 2, 2012 - 2:29:47pm
Only after seeing Cloud Atlas can one appreciate how intricately its six independent plots – and, indeed, genres – are woven. It’s a maze of a film, but a powerful and worthwhile one touching on themes and ideas that bind everyone together.
Based on David Mitchell’s book of the same name, Cloud Atlas is simultaneously huge and oddly personal. It spans hundreds of years, from a trade ship in the Pacific Ocean in 1849 to a post-apocalyptic tribe in the Hawaiian Islands more than a century “after the Fall.”
It’s rather incredible how masterfully the trio of directors, Tom Tykwer and Lana and Andy Wachowski, navigate the sprawling history of mankind’s dark past and dystopian future. If you never read the book, see the movie anyway. It’s worth the trip, even if you get a bit lost along the way.
Cloud Atlas is more about themes than story, but here’s a go at a quick summary: On a ship in 1849, a lawyer (Jim Sturgess) is slowly poisoned by his doctor (Tom Hanks); in 1931 Belgium, a young composer (Ben Whishaw) finds employment as an understudy of one of the greats (Jim Broadbent); in 1975, a tabloid reporter (Halle Berry) attempts to take on a dangerous nuclear power plant while trying to outfox an assassin (Hugo Weaving); a present-day elderly book publisher (Broadbent) is exiled to a One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest-esque retirement community; a revolutionary (Sturgess) rescues a 22nd-century clone (Bae Doona) and they help lead a rebellion against the government; and in the distant future, a tribesman (Hanks) travels with a visitor (Berry) to send a distress signal into space. Whew.
Popcorn represents how fun a film is to watch—how funny it is, how exciting the special effects are, and how enjoyable the story is on repeated viewings. The perfect popcorn movie would be one that never got stale regardless of how many times you’ve seen it.
If you buy into this directorial decision (which I did), part of the fun of the movie is spotting the out-of-place actors. For what it’s worth, they do their roles great justice, regardless of makeup and setting.
Directing duties were split down the middle, with three stories directed by Tykwer and three by the Wachowskis. There’s a marked difference in style, but the directors play to their own strengths: Tykwer creates compelling human drama and comedy, and the Wachowskis can do adventure like no one else. Tykwer’s take on “The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish” stands out as unexpectedly hilarious, and the Wachowskis turn the Neo Seoul plot into a pulse-pounding adventure. (They have a little bit of experience with futuristic, dystopian action movies.)
Cloud Atlas’s three-hour runtime flies by to create a surprisingly cogent narrative. The film’s deviations from the book are slight enough not to offend any of Mitchell’s fans (except, perhaps, the sappy final scene), and its cohesiveness makes it accessible for everyone else. You’ll get more out of the film having read the book, but even if you haven’t, you’re almost guaranteed to find something in Cloud Atlas that excites you.
Stars & Popcorn grade: 4 stars, 3 1/2 popcorn.
— Hunter serves as editor-in-chief for movie-review website Stars and Popcorn. To learn more about Stars and Popcorn, visit www.starsandpopcorn.com. Send e-mail to Hunter at email@example.com
Sponsored by Liebe Entertainment Group, Marketplace 8. Click here to see showtimes for Cloud Atlas
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