Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Rated: R

Stars: Tom Hanks,  Halle Berry,  Jim Broadbent,  Doona Bae,  Ben Whishaw, Keith David,  Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant
Directors: Tom Tykwer, Lana Wachowski, Andy Wachowski
Genre: Drama / Sci-fi / Action-Adventure

The premise of Cloud Atlas--a sweeping, sprawling, romantic, ambitious, tour-de-force of a saga--is that souls are connected throughout their various physical incarnations by their deeds and misdeeds of the past, present and future.

That's what they call KARMA around these here parts, mister...poke a mule in the butt and you're likely to git a big kick out of it. (And that's called INSTANT karma!)

The film takes the scenic route (a bit under three hours) in illustrating the point, which is no big "aha" moment for anyone with a spiritual bent toward the east, but it might give Joe and Jane Sixpack some food for thought--if you could somehow kidnap them and pull them kicking and screaming out of the latest vampire movie,  and promise that you will remove the duct tape from their mouths if they will only give a thoughtful film a chance.

There are six story lines featuring the same actors in multiple roles as different versions of themselves during various eras of history. The makeup artists had a field day, as some of the actors are unrecognizable as themselves unless you squint and look real close. I kept saying THIS guy looks so a way...OMG--IT'S HUGH GRANT! 

Tom Hanks and Halle Berry's characters, for example,  interweave and get to hang out with each other wearing the "masks" of each incarnation as another personality.  He plays a gangster, a primitive tribesman, and a doctor--among others; she is a 20th-century journalist, a Jewish-German woman, and a plantation slave.   

I'm only going to touch the surface here...ain't going to describe each story's better if you just wade into it,  like I did,  and be swept away on the tide of some brilliant film making from the team that brought you The Matrix. It's great excitement and fun, if you don't try to over think it and keep track of everything that is going on without getting overwhelmed--which you will be at times--and that's why a second and maybe even a third viewing of Cloud Atlas would undoubtedly reveal more nuance and meaning, if you want to take it that far. 

Another theme of the movie pops up in the Darwinian mantra: The weak are meat and the strong shall eat. I guess this was a way of preparing us for some of the graphic violence that appears at certain junctures in Cloud Atlas--which was the only thing in the film that I began to question after a while. Just be forewarned that there is more blood spilled here than in your average slasher movie, though it never feels like it is there simply for its own sake. 

What impressed me the most about Cloud Atlas was the feeling I got that everyone involved in this monumental  endeavor--which, surprisingly, only took about a year to complete from the beginning of filming--was dedicated to the vision of making something truly noteworthy out of  David Mitchell's ponderous 2004 novel. 

On that level, they succeeded.

Grade: A -