Sunday, 28 October 2012

Cloud Atlas (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – Beautiful, Poignant 3-Hour Saga

3.5/5 Stars

You may not find the relatively complex story overwhelming, but the sheer scale and magnificence of this 3-hour feature will certainly blow your mind away. An adaptation of the 2004 novel of the same name by David Mitchell, ‘Cloud Atlas’, the film has six interwoven stories from different eras.

The film covers six stories set in different time periods – 19th century, early 20th century, late 20th century, early 21st century, dystopian 22nd century and 170 years after the ‘The Fall’. The story of a particular era is discovered by the main character of the story in the succeeding era. The principal character in all the stories has a distinct scar on some part of his/her body, which, kind of, goes on epitomize ‘afterlife and related theories’. The concept, albeit a novel adaptation, was quite formulaic, but the screenplay, by word, was magical.

The official synopsis of the film reads, “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 main character of every story has an accomplice who plays an instrumental role in protecting him/her from evil forces (depending on the era that the story has been set in). You have an American notary rebelling against the ill-treatment of a the Moriori tribe, a young English musician going up against his ageing mentor, a young female journalist challenging the establishment, an on-the-run press publisher trying to escape out of a nursing home and a tribesman, living in the post-apocalyptic distant future, fighting an evil tribe. All the stories, characters and thoughts do not necessarily connect in the film, but by-and-large, the underlying theme in each of the stories strikes a chord with the viewer. The 20-minute finale is so gripping and poignant that it will force you to ponder over the film long after it’s over.

The cast of the film is as grand as the word ‘ensemble’ is.

Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Bae Doona, David Gyasi, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant among others , give stellar performances and most importantly, look their parts.

The premise of the film is quite unique, so to speak, and the most difficult thing is to get your actors to be able to deliver convincing performances. Such films are never shot in the same order as the screenplay is written. So, huge credit for the work of genius that we see on the big screen should go to the editor, Alexander Berner. Cinematography for such a lavish film had to be gorgeous. The film could have been cut short by around 30 minutes. It could have left a stronger impact on the viewer. The run-time, close to 3 hours, of the film, is one of the few deterrents. The underlying message is wonderful. ‘Cloud Atlas’ just numbs you with its stories, thoughts, visuals and the enchanting music. Avoid judging the film mid-way. If you do go for it, sit back, watch it patiently, and make your assessment. It’s a sum of its parts. Magnificently visualized film, written and directed by Tom Tykwer, Lana Wachowski and Andy Wachowski, ‘Cloud Atlas’ impresses at many levels.

Its complex storyline and the 3-hour-runtime are the two deterrents. However, it’s a beautiful film with a poignant message.

Shivom Oza

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