The weak are meat; the strong shall eat!
Swift shot: I didn’t care for Babel, and I am not afraid to say that. I felt the stories were all pretty boring, and tying everything together using the “evil” gun, irked me politically, Cloud Atlas uses the same gimmick and ties everything together in a mystical way. But while it is a solid film, I just can’t say it was incredible, because I couldn’t pin down the message in Cloud Atlas. There were a lot of strong points in each of the separate stories, but the overlying theme seems to be, love transcends time and mortality, or was it the whole, humans as cattle, and should we just ignore the anti-religious messages, or anti-big oil message, or the freedom is everything message? There were a lot of stories being told, each with their own messages . . . too many messages though, turned what should have been a brilliant film into merely a very good film. Still, I am sure The Academy will delight in throwing nods hither and tither, because they so love these types of non-linear artsy films that make you think. Chiefly, I guess, the main message is man should always seek freedom, to truly become evolved, not under the rule of any system or conventions (boundaries).
I had no real knowledge of Cloud Atlas prior to walking in, other than it spanned 500 years and starred Halle Berry and Tom Hanks. Hanks is my favorite actor alive, but even I had a hard time swallowing some of his cartoonish visages in this 172 minute mixture of confusion. To be sure, Cloud Atlas uses a concept that is never really explained fully, that each of these people have met in other lives, and they each had different roles with one another in each of the lives. Some were always the villain, some evolved. They are all marked in a way that lets the viewer understand, subtly, that these people are the same souls, travelers in different vessels.
In regards to these mortal vessels though, some of the makeup was beyond cheesy, laughable in some cases, where I am quite sure the makeup department wasn’t asked to garner laughter. I mean, it was really bad. I am no makeup expert, but when it is so bad that it outright detracts from a powerful scene, that’s almost criminal at this level of film making. And, while I couldn’t care less about race, some of the obvious Asian features of one actress, trying to pull off an Hispanic woman, or a southern, auburn-haired, belle, just made me shake my head as I couldn’t get past the amateur work. They probably used this device to make it obvious whom these “souls” were, but the device failed, as it just looked tacky and unprofessional. Let me put it succinctly, ever wear a mask and your mouth moves all funny in it, and your lips don’t really have free range of movement? It was that bad! If you are going to make an artsy-fartsy film, the artsy part better not get in the way of the fartsy part. Cloud Atlas definitely deserved something better in the makeup department, because it had real potential to be something amazing.
I’ve personally always been fascinated with that sense of knowing someone, before you know them, the hint of deja-vu you might get in a new place or situation. You know there is no way you have ever been there, doing that, with this person . . . yet your mind sends you a quick poke, hey, you’ve done this before, remember? Some skeptics would argue about the science behind the phenomena, but Cloud Atlas doesn’t really try to answer any skeptics. It just tells separate stories and expects you to sit back and take it all in, and brother (or sister) you had best be ready to pay attention while watching this film. It jumps from future, to past, to present and back and forth, and there is a whole new language invented that you might not be able to pick up in the first few sequences. After a few scenes, you catch on, but this was one time I wish we had subtitles, just to aid in comprehending some of the dialog.
Essentially, to fully describe each of the different stories would take more time than research has shown people tend to spend on the Internet . . . reading things. So, in that regard, I won’t. [Check out all the images on our FB page for an idea of all the stories by clicking the image above] I will just tell you that many of the actors are used over again, recycled, if you will, for the next time-line. Let me focus on each actor, rather than on each character, and give you a brief understanding of what to expect from each.
Primarily, there’s Tom Hanks, who does a fabulous job (and only had a few scenes of ridiculous makeup to contend with) on his soul’s journey. He’s doesn’t start out as the good-guy, but each journey gets him closer to, hopefully, breaking out of his selfish nature. Halle Berry seems to play the stalwart truth-seeker, the heroine, essentially in every life. She tries to save others. A less clear path is laid out for Ben Whishaw, who (even though we aren’t supposed to view him this way) is just as selfish as his supposed mentor. Jim Sturgess starts off with a good heart, but a weak constitution, but he too evolves into a great heroic figure. Hugo Weaving, well, he is always a rotten soul, even when he isn’t actually in a vessel (what you call a body) he is capable of tormenting others. Jim Broadbent (will probably get a Best-Supporting nod) does a fabulous job with his characters, showing the nature of man isn’t always rotten, and he provides the best comedic sequences of the film.
Doona Bae plays the tragic figure, set in a world of corruption, but always coming to the conclusion that people should remain free at all costs. David Gyasi’s primary role is that of a slave who teaches us, again, a lesson about freedom. Finally, rounding out the main actors, James D’Arcy helps provide the ultimate glue that ties a lot of the story-lines together. There was just too much going on in each story, and I remarked afterwards with some friends at the screening. I can’t wait for the Blu-ray, maybe they will have a special feature that will just show each story-line in one stream and the stories can be more clearly understood. That would be nice.
With some incredible cinematography, solid special effects (excluding the horrendous makeup) and Oscar-worthy acting, Cloud Atlas won’t leave you feeling ripped off. But, be warned, this film is heavy on the mind, hard to swallow in some places, focuses on some touchy subjects, and is sure to stir pots at any dinner-table conversation discussing, really just about any of the stories. This is beginning to be a bit cliche for us at iratefilms, but, it is true . . . this film is not for everyone. I am not sure how mainstream movie-goers will react, in America, at least. We don’t mind pensive plots, but we are highly cynical viewers, and there are some things that we can’t overlook. Still, Cloud Atlas has some remarkable sequences, but it’s a lot like a Chef Salad with crap you don’t really want to eat mixed in. You’ll spend a fair amount of time with your mental fork, wishing you could get to the bottom of one of the stories . . . whilst having to endure a lot of leafy greens. Go see Cloud Atlas if you want a mental and metaphysical challenge.