***THIS REVIEW WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED ON THE HOLLYWOOD NEWS, HERE***
DIRECTOR: Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski.
CAST: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Doona Bae, Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, Hugh Grant, James D’Arcy, Hugo Weaving, Keith David, David Gyasi, Xun Zhou, Susan Sarandon.
SYNOPSIS: Six stories from different moments in time become intertwined as random acts change the course of history. From modern-day farce to post-apocalyptic warfare, everything is connected.
David Mitchell’s 2004 novel, Cloud Atlas, is a magical mixture of six seemingly unrelated historical yarns that weave together through time to become interlinked by specific, consequential ripples. With a formidable artistic trio at the helm, Mitchell’s majestic and lauded work has been transformed into a lovingly crafted, jaw-dropping epic from Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis.
Where the novel is read as separate chapters within the sextet’s respective timelines, Alexander Berner’s remarkable editing results in a singular, fluid tale. Slices of sci-fi, historical spectacle, political thriller and good, old-fashioned slapstick are layered harmoniously with unprecedented ease – an impressive feat that should not be undervalued. A modern-day caper set in an old people’s home may appear farfetched, but where the low-key comedy is merged seamlessly into the expansive world of Neo Seoul, you feel safe that these directors can master any genre.
The running time lends itself perfectly to the sprawling nature of Cloud Atlas, with glorious, hyperbole-fuelled interludes allowing the words to morph from the page into a thing of aural beauty. At their most enchanting when delivered by Ben Whishaw’s silken tones, lyrical passages lifted from Mitchell’s text are elevated by a score that delicately enshrouds the film’s sublime contrast of futuristic and realistic.
Characters speak of déjà vu from the film’s sweeping, Romantic opening to the attentive dusting of its own Easter eggs, but it is the Russian nesting doll nature of repeat casting that is crucial to the film’s intrigue and historical intricacies. Allowing for a great deal of unexpected humour in the form of accents, cross-dressing and impeccably timed one-liners, we are exposed to exciting, previously unseen sides of the cast (most notably Hugh Grant and Jim Sturgess), though it is Doona Bae’s astonishing breakout performance as Sonmi-451 that embodies Cloud Atlas’ heartbeat.
Not all journeys have a satisfactory conclusion, with some characters meeting their maker sooner than expected, but this refreshing element shouldn’t irritate when you are granted the luxury of indulging in other incarnations from the ensemble within the intricate patchwork. In a film where linear predictability is well and truly off the menu, you won’t fret over the lack of focus on one particular character when the blurring of ethnicity and time culminates in such astonishing results.
The obvious use of prosthetics against the bigger, brassier use of techno-wizadry may seem a little out of sync, but in most cases it works to heighten the script’s more obvious caricatures. With the text requiring a great deal of conjecture to decipher how each player is connected, the make-up and costumes are essential to the film’s authenticity and desire to cast a shield of ambivalence over its audience.
Cloud Atlas is a rare beast that will appeal to atheists, believers and everyone in-between. It’s heart stopping, spine-tingling cinema that deserves rapturous applause and is guaranteed to stand as one of 2013’s very best. With such strong, assured direction, Cloud Atlas is astonishing filmmaking that allows this powerhouse directorial trio to turn their bold vision into cinematic perfection.
Cloud Atlas is released in UK cinemas on 22nd February.