Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Timey-Wimey Stuff

The 'un-filmable', when referring to books, seems to be considered more of a challenge these days than a suggestion. We have seen it time and time again. Think American Psycho or Life Of Pi. In fact, 2012 also saw the release today's film, also deemed 'un-filmable'. This is Cloud Atlas.

Where to start?
At its essence, Cloud Atlas is six tales of six people throughout time. Across the six tales, there are, primarily, thirteen actors covering all of the main characters. Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, and Hugh Grant play seven characters each. Jim Broadbent, Jim Sturgess, and Doona Bae play six each. Ben Whishaw, Keith David, James D'Arcy, Xun Zhou, David Gyasi, and Susan Sarandon also all play several important roles over most of the stories. The stories consist of a man saving a slave and vice-versa in the 1800s, a young composer trying to create a masterpiece in the 1936, a reporter trying to reveal something huge in the 70s, a publisher getting in lots of trouble with his brother, a nursing home, and thugs in the present day, a Korean clone made purely to serve food longing for more meaning in life in the far future, and a tribal man in post-apocalyptic Hawaii.  All the stories interlink in some way, as Sonmi-451, the Korean clone, says: 'Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others, past and present. And by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.'


There is one thing that is almost a certainty with Cloud Atlas: you will be surprised in the credits when the images of all the characters are shown with the actors names. The versatility of all of the performers is simply astounding. It is hard to pick a stand out amongst such a variety of performances and it is hard to dive into too much depth on such a wide topic. What is also worthy of high praise here is the make-up, hair, and costume departments on the film for making everyone almost unrecognisable across the six storylines. These, often horribly overlooked, departments were clearly a huge catalyst in developing the way in which the actors developed their characters; they were literally transformed into someone else. This is a whole new league of multi-roles and will take some work to top in years to come.

Well this sucks.

But Cloud Atlas' indescribable nature does not end with the acting. Trying to explain Cloud Atlas to someone is a lot like trying to theoretical physics to a seven year old; you can describe it perfectly, but it still will not quite make sense. But when all the stories link and tie together, it is masterful. Wonderfully adapted from David Mitchell's novel by Tom Tykwer and the Wachowski siblings, Cloud Atlas skilfully blends the six stories with such grace and brilliant editing that one cannot help but be sucked simultaneously into each one. The near three hour runtime seems like half that as climaxes come periodically throughout the film, releasing catharsis and then building up to the next one. A mix of all genres, stretching from period drama to sci-fi action, and all in between to create something truly unique.

Philosophical, dramatic, action packed, and touching. Cloud Atlas is a truly spectacular piece of cinema that will no doubt be a talking point for years to come. Some of the best performances in years, though focus is required. Set aside a solid three hours with snacks and drinks, and enjoy.

Best Bit? Jim Broadbent's Timothy Cavendish's story line goes from strength to strength but climaxes with one of the most entertaining escapes in years as some O.A.P.s and himself have to break out of a nursing home and, naturally, go to a pub straight after.

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