Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, and Hugo Weaving play multiple roles in a film that moves through time. SIDEWALKS’ Jeanne Powell reviews the ambitious “Cloud Atlas.”
Warner Bros. Pictures
MPAA Rating: R for “violence, language, sexuality/nudity and some drug use”
Run Time: 172 minutes
From acclaimed filmmakers Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, and Andy Wachowski comes the powerful and inspiring epic “Cloud Atlas,” based on the best-selling novel by David Mitchell.
Drama, mystery, action and enduring love thread through a single story that unfolds in multiple timelines over the span of 500 years. Characters meet and reunite from one life to the next. Born and reborn.
As the consequences of their actions and choices impact one another through the past, the present and the distant future, one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and a single act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.
Everything is connected.
Academy Award® winners Tom Hanks (“Philadelphia,” “Forrest Gump”) and Halle Berry (“Monster’s Ball”) lead a stellar international cast that also includes Oscar® winner Jim Broadbent (“Iris”), Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, James D’Arcy, Xun Zhou, Keith David and David Gyasi, with Oscar® winner Susan Sarandon (“Dead Man Walking”) and Hugh Grant. Each member of the ensemble appears in multiple roles as the story moves through time.
The film is written for the screen and directed by Lana Wachowski & Tom Tykwer & Andy Wachowski. The Wachowskis previously teamed as writers/directors of the groundbreaking “Matrix” trilogy; Tom Tykwer won an Independent Spirit Award and earned a BAFTA Award nomination as the director/writer of “Run Lola Run,” and more recently directed the award-winning thriller “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer.”
Based on the celebrated best-selling novel by David Mitchell, “Cloud Atlas” is produced by two-time Oscar®nominee Grant Hill (“The Thin Red Line,” “The Tree of Life”), three-time BAFTA Award nominee Stefan Arndt (“The White Ribbon,” “Goodbye Lenin!,” “Run Lola Run”), Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, and Andy Wachowski. Philip Lee, Uwe Schott and Wilson Qiu serve as executive producers, with co-producers Peter Lam, Tony Teo and Alexander van Dülmen, and Gigi Oeri as associate producer.
The creative filmmaking team includes directors of photography John Toll and Frank Griebe; production designers Uli Hanisch and Hugh Bateup; editor Alexander Berner; costume designers Kym Barrett and Pierre-Yves Gayraud; and visual effects supervisor Dan Glass.
The music is composed by Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil.
Warner Bros. Pictures presents a Cloud Atlas Production/X-Filme Creative Pool and Anarchos Production, in association with A Company and ARD Degeto, “Cloud Atlas.” The film will be distributed in North America, the UK, France, Spain, Australia and Japan by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.
It will be released in Germany, Austria and German-speaking Switzerland by X Verleih; in China by Dreams of the Dragon Pictures; in Hong Kong by Media Asia Group; in Singapore and Malaysia by Ascension Pictures; in Korea by Bloomage Company; in Taiwan by Long Shong Group; in Russia and Eastern Europe by A Company; and in other territories through Focus Features International.
“Cloud Atlas” is a work of mind-bending fiction turned into a long but intriguing film, with lots of star power. At nearly three hours in length, the film is uneven and too long.
British author David Mitchell’s popular novel, published in 2004, was adapted for the screen by the Wachowski siblings. Considered by some to be unfilmable due to its length, time span of 500 years and themes with cosmic implications, the novel undergoes a transformation which may be more than was necessary to render the story in a different genre.
The film is a mix of science fiction, suspense, social commentary and violent action scenes, as the characters move from a murderous 19th century voyage in the South Seas to the home of an manipulative composer past his prime in the UK, to a muckraking journalist reminiscent of the reporter in “Three Mile Island” to amusing sequences of a publisher held prisoner in a convalescent center, to a humanoid GMO trapped in the totalitarian future (think “Total Recall” and “Blade Runner”), to the remnants of a world after the fall (end of western Roman empire with troops recalled, or breakup of Charlemagne’s empire after his death, or nuclear holocaust), along with visitors from a galaxy far far away with rescue in mind.
Each actor plays several parts, with some clever and convincing disguises as the film cuts back and forth between centuries and story lines. Halle Berry is the Native Woman, Jocasta Ayrs, Louisa Rey, Ovid and Meronym, for example. Jim Broadbent is Captain Molyneus, Vyvyan Ayrs, Timothy Cavendish and Prescient 2, to name a few. Tom Hanks is Henry Goose, Isaac Sachs, Dermot Hoggins and Zachry, among others. And Susan Sarandon plays Madame Horrox, Older Ursula, Yusouf Suleiman and the Abbess. Thoughtful credits at the end clear up the mystery of who plays whom, if the viewer has not given up by then.
Film directors Lana and Andy Wachowski collaborated with Tom Tykwer in adapting the Mitchell novel for the screen, substituting cross cutting techniques for any kind of symmetry in storytelling. Tom Tykwer directed the 1998 film, “Run Lola Run.” Lana is credited with writing the script for “The Matrix.”
The transformation of Doona Bae as Sonmi-451 (humanoid GMO in the ultimate corporate nightmare for an employee) was intriguing and brought to mind moments from “The Fifth Element” and “Blade Runner.” Otherwise, I cannot say that this film engaged me. A lot of characters playing multiple parts, too much cross cutting of story lines and excessive reliance on violence near the end. Perhaps another viewing in the distant future?