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MOVIE REVIEW: FTN reviews Cloud Atlas

February 19th, 2013 by Irwin Fletcher Comments

Cloud Atlas (15)
Directed by: Tom Tykwer, Larry & Andy Wachowsk
Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant
Running time: 172 min

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.

The story begins with the ramblings of elderly scarred man, talking by a fire, whose mish-mash of words suddenly transport the view to the Pacific in 1849, where the colonies are built on the flesh and misery of slaves from Africa and beyond.

It is during this time that a Preacher named Adam Ewing feels sympathy for one enslaved labourer, who stows himself away on a ship. It is through the journey home that Adam befriends and supports his friend in liberation from slavery.

The film suddenly jumps to 2012, to an awards ceremony involving a publisher and the rather “knuckles to riches” autobiography of Dermot Hoggins. This short story, interspersed with characters (and a rather dire attempt at an Irish accent), is probably the highlight of this science fiction marathon.

With segments set in 1936, 1973, 2012, 2144 and over a hundred winters later, this sprawling epic features many segments with characters all having an impact on the future, one way or another. But with fate raising fearful hand, will the final resolve spare humanity ….

With a film set in seven different time periods and performed on the screen in an extremely non-linear fashion, it is difficult to pigeon hole Cloud Atlas. Based on the novel by David Mitchell, the film is quite literally spliced into inter-change scenes and flitters from one period to the next.

All of the actors – including Tom Hanks, Jim Broadbent, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving – Jim Sturgess and Doona Bae play a role in every segment, though their characters are mostly unrelated. The premise of the film is that the souls are inter-twinned in history and never die.

This can be extremely frustrating when watching one time period when the next sentence is immediately inter-cut to a period in the past or future. The film just doesn’t seem to flow, Though the make-up effects are truly superb, the plot lines are virtually lifted from several classic science fiction films; in one comedic segment one of Jim Broadbent’s characters utters a classic line from a science fiction film, which for the more clued up filmgoer will realise way ahead of the film’s long running time, exactly where the plot is going.

The period scenes do look well in regards to sets, props and costumes, though the 2144 has been heavily influenced by elements from Blade Runner, the Matrix, Waterworld (key plot point there that never worked for Waterworld and doesn’t lend credibility to Cloud Atlas, sadly), and Star Trek, most notably the flying vehicles look extremely similar in shape and style to Klingon Birds of Prey.

This sadly is an epic film that spans too many periods in history and far too many minutes on the screen. The plot at certain points bears no real resolve to the final segment and as a result the viewer may find themselves feeling a little cheated.

2 out of 5 Nerds

I'm an LA journalist who really lives for his profession. I have also published work as Jane Doe in various mags and newspapers across the globe. I normally write articles that can cause trouble but now I write for FTN because Nerds are never angry, so I feel safe.