An exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.
Review by Louise Keller:
Brilliant or pretentious - or both? An avalanche of ideas cascade relentlessly in this full throttle and stimulating film that is often frustrating and overlong, as it puts forward its proposition that we are all connected. The past, the present and the future fuse together like a melody with three lines of harmony, as six separate storylines leapfrog from one to the other at dizzying speed as it dallies with notions of chance, destiny, time and purpose. I was enthralled, amazed, bewildered, bored and confused watching Tom Tykwer, Andy and Lana Wachowski's adaptation of David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas vividly brought to life with its star cast in a myriad of roles and extraordinary visuals.
Adding to the film's mystique is the fact that the same actors - at times almost unrecognisable - appear as different characters in each of the stories. The incongruity of some of the characters, buried deep in make-up, prosthetics, wigs, false teeth and costumes offers not only surprises, but humour. There were titters from the audience at the preview screening as the distinctive features of Hugh Weaving were spotted in various guises, including one in a frock as the nurse from hell. The story thread in which Jim Broadbent's book editor lands up in an old people's home (an aged Hugh Grant plays his brother) is a comic delight; Broadbent also plays an eccentric composer and a crusty sea captain. Ben Whishaw is especially engaging as Robert Frobisher, the male prostitute and aspiring composer, who composes a symphony called Cloud Atlas (Tykwer had a hand in composing the music).
In one of her roles, Halle Berry plays an investigative journalist in 1973, digging up facts about a nuclear reactor meltdown, although it is her portrayal of an emissary in the 24th century, falling in love with Tom Hanks' simple goatherd that is perhaps more interesting. There are stories involving a 19th century sea captain, a runaway slave, a journal-writing lawyer, a plane crash, a suicide and more. Most visually striking is the Neo Seoul segment, set in 2144, in which Doona Bae plays Sonmi-451, where we watch a clone suffering the after-effects of overdosing on soap. This is a complex and riveting story string that figures prominently in the 172 minute running time. With its Bladerunner-esque world, the production design is extraordinary. At times I felt as though I was in a video game; the visual effects are stunning.
The film is full of profound quotes such as 'a half finished book is like a half finished love affair'. As for the connections that occur throughout, there is a formidable build up to the grand finale - the boundaries and forces that change the course of our lives are defined. Although by then, I felt totally drained by the experience.
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CLOUD ATLAS (MA15+)
CAST: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, Keith David, James D'Arcy, Xun Zhou, David Gyasi, Susan Sarandon, Hugo Weaving
PRODUCER: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, Stefan Arndt, Grant Hill,
DIRECTOR: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
SCRIPT: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski (novel by David Mitchell)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Frank Griebe, John Toll
EDITOR: Alexander Berner
MUSIC: Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek, Reinhold Heil
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Hugh Bateup, Uli Hanisch
RUNNING TIME: 172 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 28, 2012