Alright, sorry for the wait (I know you were all at the edge of your seats for this one) but here we go with the Wachowski/Tykwer joint effort, Cloud Atlas. The one thing everybody is calling Cloud Atlas is ambitious, and I certainly agree. However, "ambition", when it does not achieve magnificence, carries the stigma of being "almost", or worse. I feel that Cloud Atlas, alas to all you Wachowski fanboys out there, is an almost. For all the impressive things it has, there are a few too many details that make it less than it purported to be.
The film is not a narrative, really, but more a lengthy philosophical dissertation about how people carry on beyond themselves throughout time and how things like love and hate are eternal. Or something like that. Part of what makes Cloud Atlas an almost is its ultimate lack of something really definable running through it, which in a movie like this is essential. There are moments when thematic messages are clearly stated, in monologue, to the audience almost, but these don't have much of a common presence in other story lines. They almost add up to something grand upon consideration, but not quite. The trailer does a better job at this than the movie itself does. So everything is kind of connected. The best any characters come to realizing this is in vague moments of deja vu or outright hallucination. I feel that there was effort taken, in weaving the various story lines together, to come to some ultimate moment of clarity, but I don't feel like it ever quite got there.
All this being said I do not think Cloud Atlas was a bad movie. For every flawed bit there are long moments of beauty. For the most part, it is pretty enjoyable, if only just to see all the different makeup designs. Not all of these work, I'll be very frank. But again, ambition. At any rate, one has to take his hat off to the actors in taking on such varied roles. But I fear that perhaps too much attention was drawn to this fact and it sometimes proved a bit of a distraction. While I'm here, I'll mention that another distraction was the dialogue in the "post-Fall" sequence. It reminded me only of the dialectish banter used by the desert-dwellers in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. Not necessarily a bad movie in itself, but it should be contained to its own world.
Overall, I do think this is a movie worth seeing. Despite its clunky bits and its ultimate lack of resonance, it is one of the most original pieces of filmmaking in the last few years. But it won't change your life.
We're going to be pretty busy for the next little bit. Wreck-it Ralph is already out, and next week we get Skyfall, which I've been looking forward to for quite some time. I'll try to stay on top of it all for you.
by Chase Harrison