25 February 2013
CLOUD ATLAS- Review
Toppling another of the reputedly "unadaptable" novels, Cloud Atlas is based on the epic six-pronged novel by David Mitchell (not that one), set over different time periods and locations. In the 19th century, a young notary falls sick on a voyage home to America. In the 1930s, a bisexual composer tries to make his name. In 1973, a journalist investigates a safety scandal at a nuclear power plant. In 2012, a publisher winds up committing himself to an old folks' home by accident. In the 22nd century, a woman who was bred to serve becomes the figurehead of revolution. And in the distant future, a primitive struggles to survive in a post-apocalyptic land. All of these stories are linked, by either coincidence, recurrence or the endurance of the human spirit.
If it sounds like a tough sell, you might be able to see why this one could only be independently funded. And seeing as how directors Tom Tykwer, Andy and Lana Wachowski raised the $102m budget themselves, and presented the film for distribution fait accompli, they weren't content to merely film an unfilmable novel- they also made it quite uniquely cinematic in the process. To illustrate the connections between different stories in different eras, many of the cast play multiple roles. Only Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant and Hugo Weaving appear in all six eras, but the guiding ethos seems to be that anyone can be cast as any character, with no bar on gender or ethnicity.
This is most evident with Hanks' characters- he plays against type in almost all of his roles here, and rather than being a de facto leading man, he forms a big part of a central tract about good and evil. If 19th century Hanks was a total arsehole, are all subsequent Hankses doomed to the same behaviour? It's more complex than that, but to explain it any better would be to spoil the pleasure that comes from following him through several more excellent performances in his filmography. The thematic links also allow for tonal shifts that would shake any other film apart, but this one holds its integrity.
It's never more apparent than in the stand-out segment of the film, which essentially casts Jim Broadbent in a knockabout British caper comedy in which he has to escape an old folks' home. It's the story that you kind of want to see as a feature-length, standalone version, but its placement in the middle of this sprawling, otherwise straight-faced epic brings some welcome levity, and never undercuts the overall conceit. This integrity is also a testament to Alexander Berner's truly amazing editing, which makes spectacular use of match-on action and bleeding sound to connect seemingly separate bits within the whole. Sod the make-up- the unforgivable snub that this film received at the Oscars was in the category for Best Editing.
Cloud Atlas is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen Cloud Atlas, why not share your comments below? If you're Halle Berry, then give us just a few more of these and I just might consider letting you off for Movie 43.
I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.