Cloud Atlas (Germany, 2012)

cloud_atlas_movie_poster_2Directed by: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer. I’m going to go on a limb and say that anyone who was disappointed with this movie probably had the wrong expectations going into it. I figured from what I’d read about it (like everyone else) that it would be a crazy, disjointed multi-narrative about the whole Buddhist oneness throughout humanity trip. You know—that whole thing. And that’s exactly what it is. What I didn’t count on was how far they would go, and I was pleasantly surprised to see them really pull out all the stops in presenting an impressively unique film. This movie makes more of an effort than most I’ve seen to really leave Hollywood conventions behind and push into the unknown. I won’t say that this film was successful in every crazy choice it made, but gol-darnit, I have to admire their pluck. I can’t even imagine how this movie got made in today’s studio system in the first place—isn’t there 100 years of safeguards in place to prevent crazy shit like this ever happening with big studio money? I’m glad it did happen and I’m glad it was made, but of course, I’m not surprised that it didn’t blow up into some major phenomenon. The box office and the critical buzz were both lukewarm I think. As I said, not everything works in this film. I can see how the competing storylines might be too jarring, especially when they’re all so different in tone. Some of them are as serious and stark as they can be, but then the Jim Broadbent storyline with the old folks home is absolutely ridiculous (in a good way, I thought). The different makeup and facepaint, etc, for the different actors is a pretty cool gimmick (although maybe not much more); at the moment, I’m prepared to defend it as a pretty novel way to handle the theme of universality through recurrence that the story is getting at (and to draw some unity in an otherwise unwieldy story). Can you imagine how impossibly dense this thing would be with a different cast for each part? Although, on the other hand, I kind of hate corny prosthetic makeup as a rule, and this film definitely pushed that dislike to the boundaries (although not over that boundary most of the time). There’s an awful lot of disbelief suspension going on as a viewer here. For that matter, this film does ask an awful lot of its audience, which is perhaps what I find so refreshing about it. My main quarrel might be with the ending—it seemed too blatant and pedagogical. Knowing the Wachowskis and their fairly overt tendency to proselytize their audience with the evils of capitalism and the inherent moral high ground of leftist politics, I was kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop in this film, and sure enough it did. I thought that the crucial choice of keeping  Hugo Weaving as an embodiment of pure evil throughout history while the rest of the cast is changing it up back and forth might have been a bit simplistic. Also, on a side note, Tom Hanks can be downright insufferable in this movie—he practically chews the goddamn scenery half the time. Beyond that, though, I’d definitely recommend this movie. It’s one we can all puzzle over for a generation or two, and that’ s worth something.

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One response to “Cloud Atlas (Germany, 2012)

  1. Pingback: List of Judgements, Anno Domini 2013 | Offhand Reviews·

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