Saturday, October 27, 2012

Watch This Movie: Cloud Atlas

Rating: WATCH IT!

“Our lives are not our own, we are bound to others, past and present. And by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”

Does that look confusing to you? If so, you're thinking like everyone else that watched.
Have you ever watched a movie and, when you're leaving the theater, just said "Damn it!" to yourself? Not because you're disappointed, but because, in the words of Will Ferrell, you're "Mind Bottled", with all your thoughts trapped in your head like a bottle? Welcome to Cloud Atlas, my friend. From start to finish, this film is a quilt patched together from about five different storylines, three different major themes and a dose of confusion so heavy you'll be left wondering if you just attended a Mitt Romney seminar on truth telling.
The credits list alone should tell you what a mind bender this will be.
But seriously, it's easier for me to tear apart a bad film than to think on the merits of a film that aimed ludicrously high and occasionally scraped it, while also dregging through some of the pits of film making. Let's be real clear here, everything you might have heard is true. Hugo Weaving plays a typical bad guy type, in addition to an overweight, overbearing female nurse as well as a demonic leprechaun.
Almost as creepy as Johnny Depp in Willy Wonka. But he has a better hat.
You've also got Tom Hanks talking in an initially almost incomprehensible version of future English as well as a crazy Irish accent, among others. You've got white men playing Koreans, and perhaps more insanely, black men playing Koreans. I'm not saying you can't be black and Korean, but the ethnic jive here is just nuts. That's beside the point, though. My advice? Buy into the universe. Accept those elements are a commentary on reincarnation or reoccurring themes that everyone in life deals with. Because this movie has something to offer.
Jokes aside, there are some touching moments. Literally, this is just before these guys kiss. I kid. Or do I?
First of all, the action, when it happens, is awesome. There aren't a lot of other movies where an action sequence will split between three or four different actions scenes occurring in entirely different realities. Off the top of my head, Inception is one of them. In Cloud Atlas, you have a futuristic laser battle parsing between a stowaway slave avoiding gunshots while a 1970s car chase goes down between elderly runaways steal a car. What the hell?
In fairness, this is one of the most awesome scenes of the film.
The action scenes aren't just good. The story takes place over thousands of years, so you see boats sailing in the colonial Caribbean, mansions in old Europe, Blade Runner style future cities and a post apocalyptic Hawaii, complete with ships that look like they were designed by aliens and satellite communication systems that unfold like Lotus flowers.
You can only wish you lived here.
I have a quote at the top of this review, though, and it sums up the movie beautifully. I found myself quoting it last night, more than 24 hours after I'd left the theater. That's one sign, to me, of a good film. The film tells six separate stories in six separate time periods, but ties them together with the common theme that how we act and what we do can have repercussions on those around us, as well as those who come after this. Interspersed in all of this is the notion of reincarnation, that we live on. That's one reason you have actors taking on multiple roles throughout the film. The truly important notion, though, of how we affect each other and can resonate far beyond our lifetimes, is important. I have caught reviews saying that it's trite, and that it's played out. Well, played out to who? Don't we need reminding that our lives have an impact beyond ourselves? Don't new generations need to be told this? Yeah, there are some artistic choices that will bother people. The reuse of actors, some of the accents. They're unimportant to the main thrust of the film though. There's a story of lovers separated by disease and distance, of lovers separated by culture and circumstance, of people who loved for only a moment before being separated by disaster, of love separated by time and fate, of love separated by warfare, and finally love that brings it all to a satisfying conclusion. It's love and courage, recurring human traits in the face of recurring human evil, an eternal battle that never ends but is constantly waged. Humanity may repeat itself, in many ways and lifetimes, but the things we do can have an impact on those who come after, and affect whether they may triumph or not.
Seriously, go WATCH IT!

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