27 October 2012

Cloud Atlas (on the screen)

Cloud Atlas is a book that has been circulating in my periphery for some time.  As a Booker short-lister, I would likely be reading it as part of my Booker Project.  It was also rumored to be "unfilmable" which really got my attention when the Wachowski's announced they had finally managed to adapt the novel and turn it into a film co-directed by Tom Twyker (who directed the Perfume adaptation, another novel said to be "unfilmable").  It had apparently taken years - no studio really wanted it, the funding was unstable, but they had managed to cast good A-list actors (Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Hugo Weaving).  The more I read about the film, the more I knew I wanted to see it.

I didn't care about the reviews (which were kind of a mixed bag, judging from what I saw on Twitter, ranging from "breathtaking" and "beautiful" to "pretentious art-house" and "boring").  I didn't care that it was over three hours long.  I saw one trailer and Cloud Atlas immediately went on my "must-see" list for Fall 2012.

Jessica and I chose a 500pm-ish showing of the movie which conveniently gave us the matinee price for a movie that would let out around 830.  Ha. 

Cloud Atlas is one of the best movies of the year.  I thank the creators for pursuring the project throughout all the obstacles placed in their way.  It is beautiful and breathtaking and a work of art.  It is wonderfully composed, shot by shot.  The score by Twyker, Johnny Klimek, and Reinhold Heil is so lovely and perfect that I immediately bought it on iTunes.  This is a long movie, so make sure you visit the ladies' before you settle in, but it didn't feel like an obvious three-hour movie; it felt like perhaps two hours, but I wasn't checking my watch like I have with other, shorter films (Transformers 2, I'm looking at you).  The cross-cutting of the six timelines was fantastic.

I liked the multiple-roles-per-actor idea and it worked well on the whole, although it is very apparent that Tom Hanks really isn't good at accent work (his Scottish mobster role was actually pretty nails-on-chalkboard).  Even though his Zachry character resembled Forrest Gump more than I expected he did make the "dialect" used in those Far Future scenes understandable.  Hugo Weaving was wonderful as the dreadful Nurse Noakes, playing off Jim Broadbent's indignant elderly gentleman.

Although all the sections were beautifully done my favorite timeline was the neo-Seoul/Sonmi-451 section. It was obviously one of the Wachowskis' sections with visuals reminiscent of the Matrix and a similar type of rebellion at its core.  I had never seen Doona Bae's work before and she absolutely blew me away.  There were tears.  She was able to convey so much emotion and compassion just by being so calm and still when there was so much other action around her.  I was also impressed with Jim Sturgess.  I hadn't yet liked many of his movies and his performance of Hae-Joo was better than I had expected

This isn't a perfect movie.  Some of the special effects makeup is funky (the "aging" makeup looks too crinkly and dry and the prosthetics used to make the non-Asian actors Korean gave everyone an odd Botox look) and I've mentioned the issue with the accents.  I will agree with some critics who said that the message of the movie did tend to bash viewers over the head by the end.  But those things didn't detract from my enjoyment of the film.  Cloud Atlas is the reason why independent films exist, especially those requiring larger budgets - it could never exist otherwise.

1. The Impossible - follows a vacationing family through the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami in Thailand.  Good cast (Ewan MacGregor, Naomi Watts).
2. Parker - Jason Stathem, doing what he does best, this time with JLo in a plot similar to that of The Italian Job (which he was in, oy)
3. Silver Linings Playbook - looks kind of goofy in a fun way
4. Gangster Squad - Ryan Gosling does LA Confidential?

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