New on DVD

Cloud Atlas all over the place

lars logoYEP – If there was an Oscar awarded for Best Trailer, Cloud Atlas would have walked away with the statue, no contest.

But there’s not.

What made for a thought-provoking and lyrical (and viral!) trailer resulted in a convoluted mess of a movie, with more prosthetic noses than a clown convention; and twice as many story lines as writer-director Tom Tykwer and the Wachowski siblings can handle, apparently.

It is definitely a film that attempts to say a lot, striving to be profound in each and every moment. And maybe that’s its fatal flaw. It never relaxes in to a user-friendly tempo, constantly shifting back and forth between characters, time periods, and even planets, all while using the gimmick of a handful of actors playing multiple roles. It’s exhausting, to be frank.

And, while one character may apologize for it up front through narration “While my extensive experience as an editor has led me to a disdain for flashbacks and flash forwards and all such tricksy gimmicks. I believe my dear reader that if you can extend your patience for just a moment, you will find that there is a method to this tale of madness,” it does not forgive the uneven performances or scattered through line. One story takes place “106 winters after the fall.” Alrighty then.

cloud atlas 3Tom Hanks and Halle Berry anchor the talented cast, which also includes the stellar Jim Broadbent, Matrix menace Hugo Weaving, Hitchcock’s James D’Arcy, the ubiquitous Keith David, Atlantic City vixen Susan Sarandon, and a surprisingly effective Hugh Grant, former U.K. rom-com king. Each actor plays several roles and the implication is that each incarnation represents a different phase of personal evolution. “All voices tied up into one.” Admirable concept, not very well executed.

Don’t get me wrong, though. There is a lot to like in Cloud Atlas. Some of the characters are very memorable (Weaving’s Devil on Hanks’ shoulder for one), and much of the writing is ambitiously poetic.

Normally, I enjoy a script that requires mental gymnastics. This one just misses its mark – by a hair. Multiple story lines is a structure that’s given us some great films (Magnolia, Grand Canyon, Babel, Amores Perros). Multiple narrators not such a good idea.

“Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb we are bound to others. Past and present. And by each crime and every kindness we birth our future.”

Good stuff – buried in the mix.

It’s probably a better book.

2 thoughts on “Cloud Atlas all over the place

  1. I have been wondering about this one; the concept seems really interesting; the kind of thing Sue and me have discussions about, but what previews I saw led me to wonder if it would be a chaotic mess. I will have to keep an eye on the red box and see it then. Good job as usual.

  2. Thanks, Kerry. The more I think about this film the more I like it. It is extremely ambitious, even if it is a messy bit of organized chaos. Would love your take on it. Hanks probably bit off more than he could chew with all the different characters, but…a noble effort for sure.

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