The Something Something Film Review

Some films have that special something, and some films seem like they stepped in something. Allow me to help you know the difference, and maybe find you something good to watch.

Cloud Atlas (2012)

CLOUD ATLAS – rated ‘R’ / 2 hours and 52 minutes / w & d by Tom Tykwer and The Wachowski Siblings – based on the novel by David Mitchell / starring: Jim Broadbent, Doona Bae, Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Susan Sarandon, Jim Sturgis, Hugh Grant, Ben Whishaw, Keith David, James D’Arcy, Xun Zhou

Its detractors will say that the viewer, while watching the film CLOUD ATLAS, is hit squarely on the head semi-regularly with the ‘everything-is-connected’ premise for the full three hour running time, and I’m not even going to try to convince you otherwise.

In fact, I agree. The film is heavy-handed, preachy, and it’s a little too on-the-nose for my tastes, but don’t stop reading now. Because despite these potential issues, this film is  all kinds of awesome and still very much well-worth watching.

‘Which kinds of awesome?’ you may be asking…

Let’s see:

  • Oppressive highly-stylized dystopic futuristic nightmare? Check.
  • Post-post-apocalyptic forest-dwelling humans hunted by orc-like cannibal warriors? Check.
  • Cuckoo’s Nest-esque present-day hospital break-out, but with charming old British people? Che– What?! Oh, right: check. Yeah, that one is awesome, actually.

There are plenty of other items of interest, but listen: CLOUD ATLAS is a bundle of stories, each in its way conveying a message of compassion and hope in the face of seemingly insurmountable adversity.

Nice, right? Warm fuzzies. But fortunately these are also stories that include future-ninjas, cutthroat thieves, pirates, rebellious clones, and a top-hatted mind-demon prancing about taunting you in your imagined periphery. The sex and the violence in this film are graphic and gritty (respectively), and there is more than enough dramatic tension for everyone to simmer in.

There are some harrowing chase scenes, some exhilarating fight scenes, and some titillating sex scenes. So what’s not to like?

Well… you have to be on board with it. You’ve got to move when it moves. It jumps between narratives constantly, and many times without a cue. And this film never lets you get comfortable, the character’s are always changing, and so you have to be willing to follow its lead and keep track of who’s who.

There are six, that’s right: six(!) developed main-storylines, and each one is like a mini-movie, each with it’s own radically different environment and look, and each with the same actors playing different, sometimes wildly transformative roles. It’s creative, it’s fascinating – and to be honest it actually gets a little tiresome for three hours.

But just a little. And that’s more than balanced out by the overall spectacle of it all, the deeds of desperation, the carnage, the courage – and, also the thrill I get of eventually recognizing a familiar face beneath the prosthetics (way better than Where’s Waldo).

The stories in CLOUD ATLAS bring all kinds of other films to mind: THE FOUNTAIN most of all for its use of the same actors in separate stories that span thousands of years, but also EQUILIBRIUM, THE PELICAN BRIEF, ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST, AMISTAD, COPYING BEETHOVEN, WATER WORLD, SOYLENT GREEN, PLANET OF THE APES, THE MATRIX, 2046, and sooo many more.

CLOUD ATLAS should be a Great film. It is epic and vibrant, flashy and slick, textured and expansive in scope, but still focused on humans and their foibles.  It is visually and musically inventive, and the editor accomplished the daunting task of weaving all those story-lines together into a cohesive form. And, perhaps most importantly, on a moment-to-moment level: this is a downright entertaining film.

And yet I do think it eludes ‘greatness’. Some great parts, but in the end…

BOUND is great.

The first MATRIX is great.

RUN LOLA RUN is great.

CLOUD ATLAS is… a lot of fun, mostly. It’s best if you can somehow ignore about two-thirds of the insistent proclamations that absolutely everything is connected in a full-on mystical way, and just enjoy the adventures.

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