reviewed by Tom-Tom
The Wachowskis never do anything in halves. They go all in or not at all. They took the Matrix Trilogy to its conclusion and for better or worse created a landmark in the history of Sci Fi Action. Why I may not always agree with the finished product, I never have any doubts as to the conviction with which they create. Cloud Atlas, based on the novel by David Mitchell, is an ambitious, sprawling masterpiece which challenges its viewers to hang on to its intricate plot which spans across six different timelines using the same actors playing different people of different nationalities and sometimes different races. There’s no one description to pigeon-hole this truly all-in experiment. The different segments are all fully realized from the young lawyer Adam Ewing on the way home from visiting a avaricious doctor on a Pacific Island in 1849, to a young composer Robert Frobisher (Ben Whishaw) composing his masterpiece under the shadow of a vile, crotchety, old composer in need of an “amanuensis” or basically, someone to transcribe his music onto paper, to a compelling 70’s mystery starring Halle Berry as Luisa Rey, a investigative reporter looking into the shady dealings of Lloyd Hooks (Hugh Grant), to the comic exploits of the publisher Timothy Cavendish (Jim Broadbent) whose financial straits lead him to some wacky adventures, to Sci Fi action in Neo Seoul in the 22nd Century in which Sonmi-451 (Doona Bae), a Fabricant rescued from a life of lowly repetitive servitude by Chang, a member of the Union rebellion, to the post apocalyptic 106 Winters after the Fall in which Zachry (Tom Hanks)) and his other pidgin speaking villagers are attacked by cannibals led by Hugh Grant and visited by Meronym (Halle Berry) a futuristic Prescient who may hold the key to their salvation to much later where Zachry is a scarred and bald old man yarning to unseen children.
The film is also directed by Director/Composer Tom Tywker, whose The International I really liked as a film and musical score on which he shares composing credits with fellow Germans Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil. The music is orchestral moving progressively forward. Its themes are crucial to the composer’s timeline making it not just window dressing but an origin story in and of itself.
Cloud Atlas is one of the best edited films I have ever seen. It could have been a mess but each of the various timelines are very well sewn together and their parallel progression is constantly eye opening. A person makes a call in one timeline and someone else picks up for different reasons in the next. Suspense builds and explodes in two to three timelines at once and it is all very well balanced never feeling like action for action’s sake. Everything is relevant but I never felt lost. It’s engaging to see how Hugo Weaving or Jim Broadbent are going to show up next or whether Susan Sarandon or Halle Berry will be male or female.
There’s so much going on in this film that it begs multiple viewings. Everyone gives it their best in whatever timeline or guise they’re in. It’s one of the best films of 2012.