Sunday, October 28, 2012

Cloud Atlas

Based on the novel by David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas is the story about human beings being connected to one another in various places in time from the past to the future as they all deal with their role in humanity. Written for the screen and directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer, the film is an epic story that bends all sorts of genres. With an all-star cast playing multiple roles that includes Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, Doona Bae, Susan Sarandon, Jim Broadbent, James D’Arcy, David Gyasi, Zhou Xun, David Gyasi, and Keith David. Cloud Atlas is a captivating yet exhilarating film from Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis.

In the 1850s, a young notary named Adam Ewing (Jim Sturgess) travels to the Pacific Islands to discover a plantation run by Reverend Gilles Horrox (Hugh Grant) as it consists of slaves. Upon his return home to San Francisco, Ewing discovers a young slave named Autua (David Gyasi) who stows away on the ship as the ailing Ewing recalls his experience in a journal. In 1930s Belgium, a young musician named Robert Frobisher (Ben Whishaw) writes many letters to his lover Rufus Sixsmith (James D’Arcy) where he works as an amanuensis for the aging composer Vyvyan Ayrs (Jim Broadbent) where they collaborate on a musical piece together. In the 1970s, a San Franciscan journalist named Luisa Rey (Halle Berry) meets the aging Sixsmith where she discovers a chilling mystery about an oil magnate Lloyd Hooks(Hugh Grant) trying to manipulate the energy crisis as a hitman named Bill Smoke (Hugo Weaving) is after her.

In 2012 London, book publisher Timothy Cavendish (Jim Broadbent) is in big trouble over mounting debts to gangsters as he turns to his older brother Denholme (Hugh Grant) for help. Instead, Denholme tricks Timothy to live in a retirement home where Timothy has to deal with the cruel nurse Noakes (Hugo Weaving) as he fights for freedom. In the futuristic South Korea, a genetically-created clone named Sonmi-451 learns about her dystopian world as she meets a young rebel named Hae-Joo Chang (Jim Sturgess) where they decide to create rebellion. In a more distant future, a tribesman named Zachry takes a technologically-advanced woman named Meronym (Halle Berry) to an old palace to find meaning in their world so they can save humanity from an evil tribe and other dark forces.

The film is essentially a multi-layered, inter-weaving collection of stories of people making decisions that would change their own fates as well as the fate of others through six different periods of time. Through the recollection of one individual’s story, one character would discover that person’s story that would inspire something of their own that would eventually inspire another and so on. In these moments where they would discover these stories or pieces of work by a certain person, it would allow a character from different stories to be motivated to do something as it would eventually give them a chance to do something that would help humanity.

The screenplay by Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis is truly dazzling for the way the narrative moves from one story to another in this inter-weaving style where it adds up to the dramatic momentum of the film. Even as they would provide moments that would play up the suspense of another story and so on. It’s part of the schematics that Tykwer and the Wachowskis wanted to create while slowing things down so that characters can find ways to connect with one another to feel something as if there’s a chance to really do something great. Yet, each protagonist in these six different stories would make decisions that could impact something that would become a key moment of their lives and would set the stage for another.

The direction of Tykwer and the Wachowskis is vast in terms of the presentation they wanted to create for this massive film. With Tykwer directing the two segments in the 20th Century and the 2012 segment while the Wachowskis helm the 19th Century story and the ones set in the future. The filmmakers give each story a chance to set out on their own as they each provide broad visuals to establish the world these characters live in. Notably as these segments also have moments of intimacy to help flesh the characters out even more in their development. Since the film is really a genre-bender that features elements of sci-fi, adventure, drama, comedy, romance, and suspense. It is still about people and the adventures they go into and how they deal with these opposing forces.

For the 20th Century and 2012 segments, Tykwer pretty much keep things straightforward in terms of the presentation though he does shoot scenes with elements of style. Even as he find ways to put every actor who plays multiple roles a chance to pop up every now and then. Tykwer also utilizes bits of humor in the stories as well as some truly jaw-dropping moments such as a scene where Frobisher and Sixsmith stand and freeze while china plates drop all over them. In the 19th Century and futuristic segments, the Wachowskis go all out in terms of the ambition where they create massive sceneries for their segments. Notably the future where it is awash with visual effects to showcase a world that is unique but also unsettling.

Particularly as it establishes the sense of chaos and mistakes humans made where it plays into the most furthest futuristic segment forcing one character to do something to bring some semblance of hope. Overall, Tywker and the Wachowskis create a truly grand yet engaging film about human connection and how they impact one another in different periods of time.

Cinematographers Frank Griebe and John Toll do amazing work with the film‘s photography from the naturalistic look of 19th Century and beyond future segments to the more stylish array of lighting schemes in the 20th Century scenes and the dystopian Seoul segment. Editor Alexander Berner does excellent work with the editing to create unique rhythms for the film‘s suspenseful and action moments as well as creating montages for certain scenes as well as intricate transitions to move from one story to another. Production designers Hugh Bateup and Uli Hanisch, along with set decorator Rebecca Alleway and Peter Walpole and supervising art directors Stepan O. Gessler, Kai Koch, and Charlie Revai, do spectacular work with the set pieces from the ship in the 19th Century, the homes in the 20th and 21st Century segment, and the futuristic places in the future-Seoul segment.

Costume designers Kym Barrett and Pierre-Yves Gayraud do wonderful work with the costumes to play up the very different periods of time that occur in each segment including the more stylish clothes in the dystopian Seoul segment. Makeup and hair designers Heike Merker and Daniela Skala do great work with the hair and makeup to have every actor look a different way in the various segments and play different races and nationalities in the course of the film. Visual effects supervisors Dan Glass and Stephane Ceretti do terrific work with the film‘s visual effects for segments involving Frobisher, the dystopian Seoul segment, and the beyond future scenes. Sound designer Markus Stemler and sound editor Alexander Buck do superb work in the sound to capture the different atmosphere of each location and world the characters inhabit.

The film’s music by Tom Tykwer, Reinhold Heil, and Johnny Klimek is brilliant for its low-key, orchestral-driven score to play out the very different worlds that take place in the film along with some touching piano-driven themes in scenes involving Frobisher and Ayrs. The soundtrack also includes an array of music that plays up in two segments such as the Luisa Rey segment and the Timothy Cavendish segments.

The casting by Lora Kennedy and Lucinda Syson is incredible for the large ensemble that is created where the actors get to play multiple roles. Notable small performances include Robert Fyfe as the old seadog and Mr. Meeks, Brody Nicholas Lee as Luisa’s neighbor Javier and Zachry’s nephew, Raevan Lee Hanan as Zachry’s child Catkin, and Martin Wuttke as Cavendish’s friend Mr. Boerhavve and a healer in Zachry’s tribe. Other noteworthy small parts include terrific performances from Keith David as Horrox’s servant/a friend of Luisa’s dad/a rebel leader/a futuristic chief, Zhou Xun as Zachry’s wife/a relative of Sixsmith/Sonmi-451’s friend, David Gyasi as the stowaway slave Autua/Luisa’s father/an associate of Meronym, and James D’Arcy as Rufus Sixsmith and a man who interrogates Sonmi-451.

Jim Sturgess is superb as the young notary Adam Ewing as well as in smaller roles as a father of Sixsmith’s relative, Zachry’s brother-in-law, a highlander, and the rebellious Hae-Joo Chang. Ben Whishaw is superb as the melancholic Robert Frobisher as well as other small roles as a seaman, a record shop owner, and Denholme’s wife. Jim Broadbent is great as a sea captain, the very selfish Vyvyan Ayrs, a lab professor, a futuristic leader, a Korean musician, and as the troubled Timothy Cavendish. Susan Sarandon is wonderful as Rev. Horrox’s wife, a tribal witch, and Cavendish’s lost love. Hugh Grant is stellar as Reverend Horrox, a hotel tenant, the slimy oilman Lloyd Hooks, Timothy’s prankster brother, a perverse drug addict, and an evil tribe chief. Hugo Weaving is brilliant as Ewing’s father-in-law, a music conductor, the evil hitman Bill Smoke, a big nurse, a dystopian leader, and a demon who haunts Zachry.

Doona Bae is amazing as the clone Sonmi-451 who becomes part of a rebellion to stop a dystopian Seoul as she also plays other small roles such as Ewing’s wife and a Mexican woman who helps Luisa. Halle Berry is marvelous as the determined journalist Luisa Rey as well as notable small roles as a native woman, Ayrs’ wife, an Indian woman at a party, a Korean doctor, and a woman of the future in Meronym. Tom Hanks is remarkable as the tribe warrior Zachry who deals with demons and his tribe’s future while he also plays small roles as the devious Dr. Goose, a hotel manager, a thuggish writer, and a scientist who falls for Luisa.

Cloud Atlas is a spectacular film from Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis that explores the world of humanity and its many connections. While it’s not an easy film in terms of its ambition and big themes, it is still an engaging one for the way it explores these themes in such grand stories. It’s also a film that has something for everyone and isn’t afraid to take big risks while featuring an amazing collective of actors. In the end, Cloud Atlas is an extraordinary film from Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis.

The Wachowskis Films: (Bound) - (The Matrix) - (The Matrix Reloaded) - (The Matrix Revolution) - Speed Racer

Tom Tykwer Films: (Deadly Maria) - (Winter Sleepers) - Run Lola Run - (The Princess and the Warrior) - (Heaven (2002 film)) - True (2004 short) - (Perfume: The Story of a Murderer) - (The International) - (Three (2010 film))

© thevoid99 2012

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good review Steve. It's definitely not as smart or thought-provoking as it likes to think it is, but still has great ambition going for it and really kept me involved the whole way. Shame it's going to make no money, though.