Cloud Atlas (2012): An exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.
Cheated this time once more with the IMDB description. But seriously, how do you describe a movie like this? How do you review it? Man I have no idea. But I'm going to go for that second part. Or at least make an honest attempt at it. So this is a Wachowski clan film. Remember can't say brothers anymore. Most notably known for The Matrix trilogy, as well as the unsuccessful Speed Racer movie that came out a few years ago (remember that?) this movie very much feels like a Wachowski clan film, right down to the part where Hugo Weaving (Agent Smith in The Matrix) plays six different villains. Not even kidding. But I must say: the idea here is incredibly bold. The Wachowski clan swings for the fences here more than anyone else has with a movie since Inception. But they do it by seamlessly integrating and connecting six different stories spanning the course of about five hundred years worth of human history. Including creating two different future worlds from scratch with their own issues and environments. It's bold. Really really bold. The problem I had was that I had trouble seeing the underlying theme they were creating: showing us how we are all connected and how events of one lifetime can impact that of another. Regardless, I was still very emotionally tied to a lot of the individual storylines here. A lot more than I would've thought. The ending of the 1930s storyline actually brought a tear to my eye. But this is in large part because Ben Whishaw just steals the show for me for the most part.
Now there is a lot of makeup here. And fake accents. I mean at one point Hugo Weaving is playing an evil female hospital nurse. Things like that are all over the place here, leading to some pretty cool identification moments at the credits when you realize all the major A-list actors in here that you may have missed. Honestly the actors in this movie must really really enjoy what they do because they are all asked to do so much in this movie. Almost every single one of the major leads are in each story in some way or another. And each story is pretty well written to make you feel like the characters of them are fleshed out, which in turn does make you emotionally connect to them and be concerned with what is going to happen to them. But some and not all of the stories worked for me. Two in particular failed in my eyes. I did not appreciate the distant distant future story, as well as the one that takes place in present day. That one might be rather surprising, as the reason why the distant distant future didn't work was because the accents and lingo were just too distracting. Obviously this problem was not there in the present day storyline. But that one just...it just didn't work. I didn't really see it's point for being. Of course it was there for a reason but I just couldn't find said reason. I mean it was relatively well-written but I just didn't make the connection it had to the other five stories. But the other four worked for me. They created characters that I cared about and had them go through various problems that I did care about. And thanks to the great editing I was able to get a feel for how they were connected. Somewhat.
The editing. The stories here are not vignettes. They are all cut and edited to be together with every story simultaneously, and I felt that this was a stroke of genius from the Wachowskis. Doing this allowed the emotional level to grow with each story more so than it would have if they had been told as vignettes. The energy and tension level from each story built on each other, and by the end the stakes were higher because they were intermingled. From an exercise in filmmaking standpoint this is a really impressive and genius move that I'm sure will be seen in many film classes and I wouldn't be surprised to see more of this style slowly but surely become integrated into future films.
In conclusion, this movie is unique. It is worth watching just because of this fact. Though the 172 minute runtime might get a little long, I say it's worth it. If nothing else admire the stories within and appreciate what it took to recreate (or create from scratch in the future's cases) the worlds they are set in. If you can engage with it intellectually as well as hit the crescendo with the movie at its big aha! moment at the end you may call this one of the greatest movies of recent years. However neither of these things happened for me. But I still had a lot of fun just admiring. Also the Cloud Atlas Sextet is absolutely beautiful. It is played in various forms throughout the movie and is an absolute masterpiece in terms of movie themes.
The Critique: A fun and wildly imperfect movie that threw a bunch of ideas against the wall to see if any would stick. Some did, some didn't. Four of the six for me stuck.
The Recommendation: any fan of moviemaking should definitely put this one at the top of the list, as well as fans of the Wachowskis, Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, as well as intellectualists. Everyone else should check it out but you won't be any worse for the wear if you don't.
Rewatchability: Moderately Low
The Verdict: 7/10 I usually say good here for a 7 but it wasn't good. It was great, but had so many flaws that it just didn't deserve an 8 in my book. So I'm giving it a 7 and then my final phrase to describe it is great.
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