Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Film Review: Cloud Atlas (2012)

Cloud Atlas (Review)
Germany/United States/2012
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...a very entertaining and meaningful genre-bender."

Cloud Atlas is comprised of six stories -- each with different themes, tones, and settings, and each interlinking to create a ripple effect across the spectrum to deliver one unified, strong message.

It is difficult to further explain Cloud Atlas without prolonging the review; you see, this is a film that spans centuries, with each story being fully and distinctively developed to present a similar ideal. For example, and let me start with the most significant and attractive story in my opinion, Neo Seoul, 2144 follows Sonmi-451, a human clone programmed to serve and comply as a fast food server, as she tells her story to an archivist. Her story is one of emptiness and pain until she is freed by a rebel commander who teacher her new ideals, and shows her the world beyond her bunk -- beyond the figurative chains that enslaved her. Ultimately, she is a person, clone or pureblood, she is a person like everyone else. Every story is distinct, yet they are neatly interwoven to stand together. Cloud Atlas ultimately leads to a final act that closes all lose ends and leaves the audience, or at least left me, in a moment of introspection and thought-provocation.

Right off the bat, Cloud Atlas quickly introduces each story and setting, and each story is told at the same time. What I mean is: the film will show one action in Neo Seoul, 2144, then seamlessly jump into San Francisco, 1973 for a similar, or even related sequence. This type of storytelling requires your full attention, and, fortunately, the stories are interesting enough to keep you seated and captivated. However, Cloud Atlas may be punishing if you don't pay attention, or if you watch it in pieces; I know the long run time may have you thinking "I'll watch half today and the rest some other time," but that would be detrimental to the experience. The film mixes elements of Sci-Fi, Action, Drama, Comedy, Romance, and more into its huge runtime, and the elements blend well to create a truly effective genre-bender. Also, Cloud Atlas is an entertaining as it is meaningful; its message is strong, but not preachy, and thought-provoking.

Most of the cast does a wonderful job playing many, many characters. Tom Hanks stood out with a versatile performance -- from arrogant to introspective, evil to good -- an all around superb performance. Also, Hugo Weaving delivers a phenomenal supporting performance, really fantastic, especially when dressed in drag. Halle Berry was disappointing, though. Don't get me wrong, she's great, but she barely leaves her comfort zone; and when she does, you probably won't notice until the credits. The soundtrack is amazing, one of my favorite film soundtracks to date. The film is shot beautifully, and the special effects are superb, especially during the Neo Seoul sequences. I though the makeup was hit-and-miss -- sometimes it was amazing, but it occasionally felt ill-fitted and distracting. Lana Wachowski, Andy Wachowski, and Tom Tykwer are great as the directors, they really did a great job piecing together this enormous epic.

Overall, Cloud Atlas is a very entertaining and meaningful genre-bender. Be wary, however, it requires your undivided attention to capture the full experience -- to truly understand the film. Cloud Atlas is complicated, and occasionally frustrating, but it is also very rewarding and refreshing. I think it's a film that will grow with its audience on repeat viewings.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, some sex and nudity.

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