If all it took was a couple of awesome ideas and concepts to make a great movie then Cloud Atlas would be a certifiable classic… unfortunately it takes a lot more than that so, this is something rather other.
I will admit that I came to the film as a total novice having barely heard of David Mitchell’s (not that one) book and also having missed whatever promotion there was for the movie at the time of its release (did it even make it to this little rock?), so I really wasn’t sure what to expect save for Tom Hanks in a series of makeups.
Certainly, what I got was much more than that as the tale sprawls time with a conceit that lives are an endless stream of reincarnation across the centuries and that we, on occasion, may see through these lives into others and are forever linked with certain other people – as I said literally awesome ideas and concepts are the backbone of this movie, which, coming from the Wachowskis really isn’t unexpected.
Unfortunately this vast and sprawling network of stories and characters almost entirely failed to connect with me as, while I understand the characters are meant to interrelate across the eras, they rarely actually seemed to and this leads to what feels like six or seven different stories on which we can never focus with a selection of name and face actors in various make ups distracting from any real engagement.
In terms of the make up and effects some of them are undeniably superb, others though are frankly laughable and totally pulled me out of an already hard to engage with movie.
In these terms it actually reminded me of one of favourite movies which I’m aware is seriously flawed, David Lynch’s Dune. Like that it is based on a novel that deals with big ideas, but also like that, it is near impenetrable on various levels.
In the film’s favour a couple of the sequences were more successful than others and seemingly these are credited to co-director Tom Twyker rather than the more headline grabbing Wachowskis.
Specifically the Letters From Zedelghem and The Ghastly Ordeal Of Timothy Cavendish sections where Ben Wishaw and Jim Broadbent respectively play characters who, at times, were actually relatable with elements of comedy and tragedy across the two scenes that cut through the rest of the overarching plot (though the drag nurses were a bit too Monty Python and proved very distracting).
The other character that proved genuinely interesting was Hugo Weaving’s Old Georgie who, though looking like a big budget version of The Hitcher from The Mighty Boosh, was a genuinely disturbing and threatening presence.
Unfortunately, in a near three hour movie, a few engaging sequences and some interesting concepts meant other sections became, at times, boring and at others flat out nonsensical and with an odd resolution that singularly failed to tie it all together as I hoped it might (at least any more than various events earlier in the movie) Cloud Atlas ended with a sense that spanned both hope and hopelessness that I found deeply unsatisfying and also with a strange hint that I had somehow missed the point, but because the film hadn’t made its point.
And just because – The Hitcher:
And you can hear what the Sarnia Cinema team thought here (about half way through):