‘Cloud Atlas’ has to be one of the most ambitious films to hit theatres in a long time. Based on an award winning novel by British author David Mitchell, the film like the book intertwines six narrative stories. It is a complex undertaking. This is a film that went against all odds to be made. I love it when I hear about movies like this that are rejected by Hollywood but somehow find the fortitude to be made anyway. That is exactly what happened with ‘Cloud Altas.’ In a recent interview, director Tom Twyker (Run Lola Run) said every major film studio passed on financing his science-fiction epic.
This is an exciting time for independent film. After the financial crisis, many major Hollywood studios shied away from financing indie films. Studios such as Disney closed or sold their art-house units to focus on sequels or action films. Tom Hanks commented at the Los Angeles premiere of ‘Cloud Atlas,’ “What are you going to do, only make movies that are guaranteed to work?” He went on to say, “Well then we’re sitting here talking about ‘Forrest Gump 6.” Mr. Hanks gets it. Independent films are vital to keep the creative engine flowing in Hollywood and that is precisely why big name stars jump on board these indie film projects.
Besides the talented German director Twyker, the sibling team of Andy and Lana Wachowski (The Matrix films) are the creative forces behind ‘Cloud Atlas.’ Audiences will be divided over the finished product. The cinematography and editing are brilliant. However, these elements don’t necessarily make a movie great. I give it high marks because it is a visual feast for the eyes. Some of the stories will hit you harder than others. At times, the movie feels like it goes on far too long. Some of the stories are confusing and will have you scratching your head. Some of the prosthetics used by the actors are not that effective either. However, I give the filmmakers praise for putting this overwhelming work on the big screen.
The six stories are told in fragments. Some may find this frustrating to a degree. The problem with this story-hopping style is that you will be really involved with one tale and the film flips to another story. I found this to be the case for one of my favorite stories in the film which takes place in a futuristic Korea 2144. A cyborg named Sonmi-451 (Doona Bae) breaks free from her confinement working as a fast-food server to lead a revolution. Her love-interest and freedom fighter is Hae-Joo Chang (Jim Sturgess). Sturgess and Bae are the standout performances. I couldn’t get enough of this story and was a bit frustrated when they would jump to another story.
Another captivating story had to do with a post-apocalyptic goatherder Zachry (Tom Hanks) that goes to any lengths to protect his family in the future. Meronym (Halle Berry) visits Zachry as a part of a technology-advanced researcher. Berry gives solid performances throughout the film. Playing multiple roles shows off her versatility. On the other hand, some of Hanks’ transformations do not quite hit the mark. His Scottish accent in one story is laughable at best. This is a movie where you will cherry pick your favorite stories and performances.
Again, the plot is straightforward but the meaning behind it is cloaked in mystery. “An epic tale of six lives that intertwine across pasts, presents, and futures.” With all its shortcomings, ‘Cloud Atlas’ is a unique and daring film experience. Check out the official trailer https://youtu.be/ByehYal_cCs.