CLOUD ATLAS (2012)
(directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski & Lana Wachowski)
**** (out of 5)
. I’ve been looking forward to the latest effort from the former Wachowski brothers (now, the Wachowski siblings, since one of them had a sex-change operation and changed from Laurence to “Lana”) for months. Though not a big fan of the 2 MATRIX sequels, it was obvious from the trailers and advance buzz that CLOUD ATLAS was a big film, in every sense of the word, from the casting, to the structure, to the epic scope and length. It didn’t hurt that Tom Tykwer, the innovate director of the breathless RUN LOLA RUN was a collaborator. I had been reading that David Mitchell’s books were all so dense and esoteric that they did not lend themselves well to cinema- and that CLOUD ATLAS was among the most “unfilmable” of the lot. Um… yeah.
. This film was a mess. (A highly entertaining mess, but a mess nonetheless.) I was filled with mixed feelings as the ending credits rolled. While not altogether successful as a coherent film, it was huge fun to watch the many fine actors playing multiple roles, often all but unrecognizable behind their makeup. (Halle Berry said it took 8 hours to be made up as the old Asian man! She napped in the chair while they worked their magic on her face.) Tom Hanks, Hugh Grant, Susan Sarandon, Jim Broadbent and Hugo Weaving were always delightful to watch, yet it seems pretty obvious none will be nominated for their considerable acting chops. With SIX intersecting plotlines spanning time and space, none of the subplots were given sufficient attention to engender great sympathy with the characters or their struggles. Technically, it was an awesome effort, but the philosophy of human interconnectedness came across muddled and trite. Very high production values and sturdy action sequences didn’t hide the essential hollowness at the film’s core. The revolution subplot in “New Seoul” was half-baked and cursory, and very, very reminiscent of territory already covered in THE MATRIX trilogy and V FOR VENDETTA. (Government evil/ workers good. Dedicated rebels vs. a ruthless Big Brother.) It’s all simplistic, two-dimensional politics that does not inspire gravitas.
. Though all in all, I did not feel CLOUD ATLAS worked as a coherent film, I was pleased to see major mainstream directors reaching higher, trying something new and unfamiliar, taking chances and stepping away from tried-and-true commercial conventions that keep the cinema moribund, and separated from its amazing potential. At almost 3 hours, the film flew by, because there was always another subplot to return to if things got a little tired or predictable. (Interestingly, one subplot seemed totally at odds with the other five: a broad comedy look at a man unwittingly committed to an old folks home by his exasperated brother. All this comedy in a a film that otherwise struggles to be taken seriously provided a bit of cognitive dissonance, even if it was fun to watch. The audience actually cheered their escape plot out loud.) There was always something to look at and a lovely soundtrack to listen to.
. Will American audiences take to this big sprawling chimera? Not likely. I expect the big crowds of the opening week to dwindle quickly. It’s all just too alternate, too alien: too markedly other. Used to a diet of more-of-the-same, American audiences will be left puzzled and unsatisfied. If forced to give it a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down, for sheer entertainment value I would certainly choose thumbs-up, but it’s a film better watched without expectations. This film and THE MASTER were the biggest anticipated films of the year so far, but neither will set the world on fire, or receive much attention come Oscar season. Neither is “Best Picture” material. So what to look forward to now? Spielberg’s big screen live action American history lesson LINCOLN with Daniel Day Lewis channeling the great man, may just be the horse to beat.
> We’ll see.
© Kevin Paul Keelan and lastcre8iveiconoclast, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kevin Paul Keelan and lastcre8iveiconoclast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.