It is terribly difficult to begin to describe such a movie, so I apologize if I appear to be rambling more than usual. Sometimes the best thoughts are spurt through a jet of consciousness so here we go. Cloud Atlas depicts a tale of six separate time lines: the South Pacific in 1849, Cambridge and Edinburgh in 1936, San Fransisco in 1973, the United Kingdom in 2012, Neo Seoul in 2144, and finally the Hawaiian Islands in presumably 2321. We meet a set of characters intertwined with each other in their adventures, awakening past lives and shaping new futures, and experiencing the best and worst parts of humanity.
Cloud Atlas is nearly three hours long and it’s impossible to look away (a total feat in itself). If this were simply six different movies, I really doubt it would be nearly as effective. Even though I feel as if the idea of a web-of-life do-good-feel-good movie has been completely exhausted by now, I honestly hesitate to just write this off as an overdone piece of work. Each of the stories start out so differently and take on such different genres, but when they come together there’s this overwhelming sense of faith in humanity, as if people are able to do the right thing when they choose to – also a feeling of love and hope, and all that mushy stuff too. The concept is fairly predictable, but as I said, it’s presented in such a manner that it is unique in itself.
As alluded above, Cloud Atlas hides each of the actors into the timelines, which involves an incredible amount of makeup work – and it is remarkable. I personally enjoyed playing a little game called Where’s Hugh Grant?, but that’s besides the point. By creating this illusion of a shared soul, throughout time, it is interesting to see how these actors made up different characters who share similar principles that are molded by personal experience – and the performances are fantastic. However, the most bizarre and fascinating character transformation I think was Hugo Weaving – at least, his was most unsettling:
Yes he play’s a Nurse Ratched type and it’s hilarious. Other than that, check out Korean Weaving – he looks like Spock. When it came to making European actors Korean, I’m not sure if I’m impressed or weirded out. It’s just something about the pronounced brow application that makes them look so alienish, especially on James D’Arcy – or maybe it’s just me, I don’t know. And then there’s Old Georgie.
If there’s any bone I had to pick with this movie, it would be with the 2321 era. I’m as much of a fan of post-apocalyptic tribesfolk as the next gal, but with their dialect it was really hard to take seriously. Granted, I understand that the English language is steadily going downhill, but when you have a guy threatening a friend’s life and speaking like a child from Alabama, it’s really hard to feel for any of the characters.
The main character of this era, Zachry (Tom Hanks) is haunted by visions of someone named Old Georgie, who’d be Jiminy Cricket if he was vomited out of Nick Cave and a devout Alice Cooper fan. Given the context of this story, Old Georgie is just painfully out of place and hard not to laugh at – I think it’s the top hat. From what I’ve come to understand, Old Georgie is Zachry’s people’s perception of the devil – if that’s the case, why is he dressed that way? There aren’t any examples of old literature around to compare to, so how did this happen? I’m sure the Prescients (the last technologically-advanced community of this time) might have had something to do with this, but there’s no real connection so it’s all very jarring. Huh, now that I think of it, he looks a lot a certain Mighty Boosh character. Weird.
Despite my feelings for Georgie and the 2321 crew (that sounds like a techno boy band), Cloud Atlas is truly a stunning film. It’s a gorgeous and satisfying work that is touching and heartfelt and sure to give you warm fuzzies in the end. I wouldn’t go as far as calling it profound, but it is definitely worth the watch.
Final Grade: A