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Oct 26, 2012
08:00 AMTalk about Arts
Movie Review: Cloud Atlas
Films opening this weekend in Buffalo:
Chasing Mavericks - McKinley Mall, Flix Dipsons; Transit, Elmwood, Galleria, Hollywood Regals
Cloud Atlas - Maple Ridge; Amherst, McKinley Mall, Flix Dipsons; Transit, Elmwood, Galleria, Hollywood Regals
Fun Size - Maple Ridge; Market Arcade, Flix Dipsons; Transit, Elmwood, Galleria, Hollywood, Quaker Regals; Transit Drive-In
Safety Not Guaranteed - Eastern Hills Dipson
Silent Hill: Revelation - Maple Ridge; Market Arcade, Flix Dipsons; Transit, Elmwood, Galleria, Hollywood, Quaker Regals; Transit Drive-In
Filming the unfilmable, Lana and Andy Wachowski's bombastic scale teams with Tom Tykwer's delicate precision to break apart David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas and create an epic about freedom and the wrongs of humanity. Rather than retain the source material's sextet of stories in episodic fashion, however, they've decided to interweave each by compressing time and space into reality's infinitely revolving loop. The actors portray characters in each plotline, connected to one another by love—heroes mostly staying heroic and villains unceasingly evil.
More than 100 years after the fall of civilization, as Zachry's (Tom Hanks) frightened valleysman is unable to ignore the visions of Old Georgie (Hugo Weaving), we pray he'll prevail. When Robert Frobisher (Ben Whishaw) looks to better his lot in the employ of master composer Vyvyan Ayrs (Jim Broadbent) and finds only anger and tragedy, we hope his ideal of beauty will survive. And as Luisa Rey (Halle Berry), Adam Ewing (Jim Sturgess), and Timothy Cavendish (Broadbent) find the world crushing their resolve to the point of death, we imagine good of some kind will assist them. Maybe the direct result of a seemingly innocuous action made by the victim or their family previously—every action has the ability to change history.
Cloud Atlas doesn't merely stick characters influencing others or high ideas of reincarnation placing each in a meaningful position through time—it also uses their legacies. Frobisher's magnum opus symphony from the 30s becomes an enduring marker of hope; Cavendish's retirement home jail break of 2012 a movie to possibly help a year 2144 fabricated life transform into a God; the nineteenth century diary of Ewing's dying lawyer timeless inspiration; and love letters half a century old reborn as familial history of happier days expired. This, the films says, keeps us from ever truly dying.
Heroes big and small exist in every era—Ewing protecting the slave Autua (David Gyasi) and vice versa; Neo Seoul rebel Hae-Joo Im (Strugess again) trying to release his time's androids from servitude; Rey doing her journalistic duty to stop big oil from murdering innocents. The characters may change but the story stays the same. As such, it's a brilliant move using the same actors in each component. Alluding to reincarnation, soul transfers, and the like, I never thought the familiar faces hindered the whole once. People in the audience complained about feeling it was like someone was flipping the channels on them, but to me every transition was thematically relevant.
If there were a caveat to this technique, however, it is the make-up. Varying from authentic to laughable, this crutch finds a way to deter from across the board stellar performances. It's no surprise the best are Doona Bae's innocent and immensely integral Sonmi-451, Broadbent's hilariously bumbling Cavendish, and James D'Arcy's intensely romantic Rufus Sixsmith since all act pretty much unencumbered.
Adding big noses to Hanks and Susan Sarandon isn't enough of a change to appear real and the Asian-ifying of Sturgess, D'Arcy, and Weaving is too much despite their futuristic locale. The intricate labyrinths drawn on post-apocalyptic valley dwellers, Grant's cannibal paint, and Weaving's demonic Old Georgie are all fantastic, though, beautifully rendered with the amazing special effects (re)creating each era.
But in the end, Cloud Atlas is about the underlying themes and humanity's constant refusal to learn from its mistakes. It's easy to assume the actors are playing new versions of themselves as time progresses, but the inclusion of a shooting star birthmark should prove you wrong. There's more at play than what the surface reveals and you must give into the artifice to let the spectacle consume you.
Cloud Atlas 9/10 | ★ ★ ★ ½
courtesy of the Toronto International Film Festival