On The Edge Films

Cinematic Thoughts for Cinematic Minds

Cloud Atlas

2012/ Germany, USA, Hong Kong, Singapore

Director(s): Tom Tykwer, The Wachowski Brothers

Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, Keith David, James D’ Arcy, Xun Zhou, David Gyasi, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, Robert Fyfe, Martin Wuttke

It’s not often you can watch a film spanning through science fiction, comedy, cop drama to historical epics. Never the less Cloud Atlas manages to intertwine all these genres effortlessly. Based on the novel by David Mitchell and brought to the screen by the Wachowski brothers, it features six short stories all with the running theme that humans are connected throughout the ages and despite our differences we are all the same in the end. It’s not exactly an easy watch and will probably leave many viewers slightly confused but those who can keep with it will be rewarded with a very different and engaging experience, a second watch is definitely recommended.

Featuring an all star cast, with Tom Hanks most notably playing everyone from a deranged 19th Century doctor to a tribal villager living in a post apocalyptic, cannibalistic Hawaii. It’s hard to talk about every character but the ones that caught my eyes are Doona Bae playing as Somni-351, a futuristic slave serving in a sleazy restaurant. Hugo Weaving as Ol’ Georgie an imaginary manifestation of the devil guiding and manipulating Tom Hanks character ‘ Zachry. Who himself is surviving attacks from a bloodthirsty group of cannibals lead by Hugh Grant (yes you heard that right). Though playing a short role Dermot Hoggins, Hanks’ attempt at a cockney gangster was hilarious and his publisher Tim Cavendish played by Tim Broadbent coaxed some giggles out of me.

All in all the acting of the film was adept at best with a few hints of brilliance. There wasn’t one bad performance in the whole film which was surprising considering the fragmented way the stories play out. Despite only getting small amounts of screen time I actually started to feel for some of the characters even causing me to get slightly emotional at few points. At other times I felt myself itching to do something else while I waited for the stories I was more interested in to come back on. I just didn’t care. There was no award winning performances, but no disasters either so I’d give the film a slight win in this category.

The one reason you’re probably interested in this film though is the visuals, and my are they something. Each story is very distinct and recognisable, which lends itself well in keeping you with the story. You can’t help but feel overwhelmed (in a good way) when you see the sprawling neon lit city of a future Korea or equally desperate and pitiful when you see the struggling people of Hawaii far in the future. It definitely lends itself to the big screen, and though I hate the word with a passion I can’t help but say it’s ‘epic.’

The makeup and prosthetics are one of the more interesting visual choices of the film, in one way it’s brilliant but at times I found it extremely distracting. It was a bold choice and works, but you just can’t help but notice how bizarre some of the characters look such as Doona Bae playing a red haired, white woman complete with green eyes. Hugo weaving as a woman in charge of the nursery home Tim Cavendish is admitted to is worthy of mentioning, it’s just a queer mix of being awesome and ‘what were they thinking?’ in equal measures.

In the end I loved this film and would certainly recommend it, though I can’t see it been to everyone’s tastes (despite having every genre in the book.) I wouldn’t go in expecting some kind of mainstream action film or anything, because if you’ve ever read any of David Mitchells work, he specialises in stories where it’s YOU the reader (or viewer) who have to put in the missing puzzle pieces. It won’t hold your hand but it will keep you interested.

*A second viewing should be almost mandatory, you’ll notice so many things you missed the first time round and it will astound you.


-Sam Lightowler


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