Rated: R for violence, language, sexuality/nudity and some drug use. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: October 26, 2012 Released by: Warner Brothers
This new magnum opus adapted from David Mitchell's lauded metaphysical 2004 adventure (where six interlocking stories unfolded chronologically until its midsection when it reversed) has much cinematic adequacy in presenting what is arguably ambitious and visionary, but devoid of serious rewards from its attentive thematic ("everything is connected") and moral complexities.
Cloud Atlas is populated by the kind of Silver Screen stars that have given filmgoers much pleasure over the years like Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, and Hugo Weaving, as well as younger hardworking ones building their star credibility like Jim Sturgess and Ben Whishaw.
A sweeping quality with actors in multiple roles (that probably attracted them to this large canvas, rich in thought hard to finance project) in various time frames (over half a millennium and zones) is evident from the passion trio of directors and writers involved - Andy and Lana Wachowski (from The Matrix trilogy and V For Vendetta) and Tom Tykwer (The International and the art-house hit Run Lola Run, as well as Heaven). A visceral quotient doesn't quite coalesce with the events around them (compare to some of the mastery of Mel Gibson during Apocalypto) at least when it comes to vertiginous moments or the treatment of distaff Korean doubles.
Early sections probably will engross more viewers as they process how everything and everyone fits together (altering the antecedent's challenging 'tricksy gimmicky' architecture by simultaneously unveiling it all maneuvered from the opening) before the second half pulls together the connected, somewhat vibrant stories with less than some of the dramatic and emotional parts that should have made for a shimmeringly satisfying sum. It has some of the elements of small-screen hits like Lost and Battlestar Galactica that, at times, makes the whole package more inviting than it actually is.
It's always good to have someone as reliable as Hanks here even if he may be too much of a pawn in the embodiment of soulfulness and kindness by the audacious filmmaking. He can be rather harsh towards a critic as a British thug or a tribesman in a post-apocalyptic Hawaii joined by a survivor of an eradicated civilization. Hugo Weaving turns up in many villainous forms, including a blonde-coiffed caregiver of the Nurse Ratchet ilk or a minion in Bill Smoke. Vyvyan Ayrs is the aging composer that Jim Broadbent endows with grace and wit in perhaps the most amusing and gratifying vignette directed by the heavily accented German Tykwer. In the present he portrays vanity publisher Timothy Cavendish bound to a Scottish nursing home attracted to a piece of dogged journalism some four decades ago.
The way the Wachowskis and Tykwer handle Mitchell's thorny, nested narrative is weaved together with globe-trotting, time-tripping verve, but probably perturbing more viewers than keeping them engaged in awe. Some of the visual razzamatazz comes in an intense strand with a clone Sonmi 451 ( Korean star Doona-Bae). Whether interviewed before an execution (in a much later Korea) or enamored with a human, there is more of a verisimilitude here while Sturgess (Across The Universe) and Whishaw have some of their customary flair in characters like a notary putting his 19th Century Pacific Ocean voyage into a diary and an early 20th Century Belgian musician keeping his paramour updated on his experiences. One of Berry's better characters may remind some of Karen Silkwood with her reporter Luisa Rey digging into the specifics of an atomic power plant homicide in the mid 1970s. And, Grant may surprise some in a ravenous part to say the least.
The baroque artfulness of Cloud Atlas is there to be admired, but this tantalizing seamless intercutting of an extensive literary foray to the big screen ends up more disappointing like the way The Wachowskis wrapped things up with Neo, The Oracle and the little girl in The Matrix Revolutions. An admittedly ebullient heavily edited kaleidoscope destined to reach more of a limited audience rippling with romance, action, and mystery inspiring revolution in the distant future is more of a murky high-tech folly than a telling capture on celluloid of prescient, poignant profundity.