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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Review: Cloud Atlas

Maybe We've Met Before – Somewhere in Time

By Chris Sabga

Release Date: October 26, 2012 – U.S.
Rating: R
Genre: Action, Drama, Sci-Fi, Comedy, 
Romance, Thriller, War
Running Time: 172 minutes
Directors: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, 
Lana Wachowski
Writers: David Mitchell (novel), Tom Tykwer, 
Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Cast: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, 
Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, 
Ben Whishaw, James D'Arcy, Zhou Xun, 
Keith David, David Gyasi, Susan Sarandon, 
Hugh Grant

"Cloud Atlas" isn't a movie that's meant to be written or read about – it simply has to be experienced! Spanning six different time periods and featuring an international cast of world class actors in multiple roles, it's utterly breathtaking in its sheer size and scope. It's a historical drama, an action movie, a conspiracy thriller, a love story, a comedy, futuristic sci-fi, a post-apocalyptic war film, and a mystery.

Even though it incorporates a wide variety of genres, it's definitely not for everyone. Great art never is.

Here is a list of the impressive cast and the many personas they play (courtesy of IMDB):

Tom Hanks: Dr. Henry Goose / Hotel Manager / Isaac Sachs / Dermot Hoggins / Cavendish Look-a-Like Actor / Zachry

Halle Berry: Native Woman / Jocasta Ayrs / Luisa Rey / Indian Party Guest / Ovid / Meronym

Jim Broadbent: Captain Molyneux / Vyvyan Ayrs / Timothy Cavendish / Korean Musician / Prescient 2

Hugo Weaving: Haskell Moore / Tadeusz Kesselring / Bill Smoke / Nurse Noakes / Boardman Mephi / Old Georgie

Jim Sturgess: Adam Ewing / Poor Hotel Guest / Megan's Dad / Highlander / Hae-Joo Chang / Adam (Zachry's Brother-in-Law)

Doona Bae: Tilda / Megan's Mom / Mexican Woman / Sonmi-451 / Sonmi-351 / Sonmi Prostitute

Ben Whishaw: Cabin Boy / Robert Frobisher / Store Clerk / Georgette / Tribesman

Keith David: Kupaka / Joe Napier / An-kor Apis / Prescient

James D'Arcy: Young Rufus Sixsmith / Old Rufus Sixsmith / Nurse James / Archivist

Xun Zhou: Talbot / Yoona-939 / Rose

David Gyasi: Autua / Lester Rey / Duophysite

Susan Sarandon: Madame Horrox / Older Ursula / Yusouf Suleiman / Abbess

Hugh Grant: Rev. Giles Horrox / Hotel Heavy / Lloyd Hooks / Denholme Cavendish / Seer Rhee / Kona Chief

A brief breakdown of the various time periods featured in the film:

1849: South Pacific High Seas

A lawyer, Adam Ewing (Jim Sturgess), vouches for a runaway slave (David Gyasis) to the ship's captain (Jim Broadbent). Eventually, Ewing becomes deathly ill. Can the doctor on board (Tom Hanks) save him?

1936: Cambridge and Scotland

Two gay lovers, Robert Frobisher (Ben Whishaw) and Rufus Sixsmith (James D'Arcy), correspond via letters after Frobisher leaves Cambridge to seek out the great Scottish composer Vyvyan Ayrs (Broadbent). Together, they will create a musical masterpiece, the Cloud Atlas Sextet.

1973: Los Angeles, California

Roving reporter Luisa Ray (Halle Berry) gets stuck in an elevator with an older Rufus Sixmith (D'Arcy), who tips her off to a shocking conspiracy. Will the help of a scientist (Hanks) and her father's old friend (Keith David) be enough?

2012: The United Kingdom

John Travolta lookalike Dermot Hoggins (Hanks) becomes a bestselling author after he tosses a critic off a building – leading to trouble for his publisher, Timothy Cavendish (Broadbent). Cavendish turns to his brother, Denholme (Hugh Grant), who puts him in a nursing home  where he's imprisoned against his will. From there, a comedy of errors follows.

2144: Neo Seoul

Fabricants – a series of subservient slave drones cloned and engineered to please Consumers – are unchanging in their routine and unwavering in their beliefs. But one of them, Sonmi-451 (Doona Bae), eventually desires more. With the help of Hae-Joo Chang (Sturgess, playing an Asian man), she breaks away and discovers the deeper, darker truth.

106 Winters After The Fall: The Valley

A simple goat herder, Zachry (Hanks), tends to his family in a post-apocalyptic, prehistoric world. When his village, The Valley, is invaded by a violent tribe, he's helped by a mysterious, sophisticated woman, Meronym (Berry), who has access to technology. She wants him to take her up to the mountains, where "the devil" is believed to live. 

Those small summaries barely scratch the surface of "Cloud Atlas's" ambitious story, powerful themes, and central message.

Connections form across time in both big and small ways. Jim Sturgess's character from 1849 makes decisions that will shape his actions in 2144. Halle Berry and Tom Hanks meeting and falling for each other in 1973 will ripple through ages and beyond the fall of civilization. A comedic observation made in 2012 about something from 1973 will have sinister implications in 2144. And there are countless other examples...

Each segment has one or two (or more) major characters, but almost all of the main cast members are featured in some way. Sometimes they're easy to spot, even under heavy costuming and makeup – such as the Asian actress Doona Bae portraying a Caucasian redhead in 1849 or Halle Berry as a European white woman in 1936. But don't expect to catch all of them: Berry, again, is unrecognizable in the 2144 timeline as a male Korean doctor.  

The aforementioned prosthetics aren't always convincing. Doona Bae doesn't look or sound like a white woman, and Berry's appearance as one is equally as strange. However, Jim Sturgess pulls off the role of an Asian man surprisingly well. Everyone will have their own favorite performance and one particular actor they consider the "star" of the film. For me, it's Sturgess.

As I thought more about the jarring appearances of Berry, Bae, and others in some of their more disparate roles, it dawned on me that I can come up with countless examples of people from my own life who look nothing like their actual nationality. Have we, too, been "Cloud Atlasing" through the ages? 

Sometimes we make connections of such great power that they instantly seem otherworldly. Have you ever just met someone, and yet it feels like you've already known them your whole life? According to "Cloud Atlas," maybe we have – for all of our lives.

1 comment:

  1. I actually just watched this movie last night. It seemed like it took forever to get around to how everything connected to each other. I wasn't expecting the multiple time streams but once the conclusion was revealed, it was astonishing. Wouldn't see it again though....


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