Monthly Archives: October 2012

Hugo Weaving Accepts Role In Aussie Anthology The Turning; More Cloud Atlas Press

Note: this is an archived entry. Some links might not still work, but I have tried to ensure scan and video embeds are still in place. If any linked material is unavailable, please let me know and I’ll attempt to find a copy in my personal archives.

First off, I wanted to express gratitude for everyone who expressed concern while I had to take a few days off to deal with some inclement weather. Fortunately we weren’t in the worst-hit areas (that would be New York and New Jersey, whose citizens remain in my thoughts tonight). But we’re close enough to some real devastation to feel more unnerved than relieved (and half of my hometown remains without electricity, though we’re inland enough to have avoided the flooding.) I hope all my readers are staying safe tonight.

The first bit of Hugo Weaving News I found when I was finally able to safely boot up a few hours ago was this essay in The Atlantic in which the author, Joseph Pisano, analyses what he sees as strengths and patterns is some of Hugo’s more memorable roles. While he makes some valid points and defends Hugo against the recent, irrational fanboy/Michael Bay whingings, he’s still too keen to typecast Hugo ass a villain specialist. Hugo himself has argued against this categorization, saying that except in rare cases where he’s hired to play a “cartoon villain” (ie Captain America), he doesn’t interpret the characters as villains, and tries to make them plausible human beings, not just “bastards you love to hate.”

The author’s final notion, that Hugo is “bringing an ounce of actorly smarts to otherwise dumb productions, and offering mass audiences a better, defter bad guy to root against” is unfairly limiting, and ignores the fact that his best, most complex work has been done elsewhere. Also, since I was about 10 years old, if a better actor was playing the villain in any movie, I sided with the villain. I’ve never gotten my core moral principles from Hollywood franchises, even those I liked, so I just went with the more compelling character. So I’ve rarely been scared of or “loved to hate” Hugo’s characters. I don’t see characters like Kev as being “villains” but flawed, damaged human beings.  Smith is most scary when you know deep down that he’s right, not when he’s threatening Neo. In fact, the scene where Smith physically renders Neo unable to speak brings joy to my heart every damn time. Likewise, you’re scared of what a character like Kev might do, but you know he loves his son deep down, even if he doesn’t know how to properly express this (in words or behavior.) Yes it does “take talent to play unforgettable bad guys”, but that’s far from all this actor does, and even emphasizing the more sophisticated side of this talent omits classic Hugo Weaving roles like Tick, Jack in Oranges and Sunshine and Astrov in STC’s recent production of Uncle Vanya. And Hugo himself has vanquished all question of “selling out” by repeating in pretty much every interview he’s given that he prefers playing complex human characters in independent films and considers his “blockbuster” roles to be anomalies rather than major career choices. I’m glad he’s tried to do so many types of films. I love the genre stuff (Marvel and TF excepted) probably more than Hugo does. But if he wanted to do sequels to The Wolfman or even The Matrix, I’d die inside a little. He’s been there and done that.

Anyhow, I commented along these lines under the original piece when I noticed a ton of new Hugo alerts started coming in– they turned out to be news of Hugo’s latest role, in the ambitious Australian anthology film The Turning, based on Tim Winton’s linked short story collection of that title. So… nice to have some indirect backup from Hugo himself, and I couldn’t be more thrilled about this. I’ve been a fan of Winton’s for awhile now. Hugo starred in a theatrical version of Winton’s That Eye, The Sky in the early 90s… while I missed that, of course, I did read the novel. It’s both a phantasmagorical mind(ahem!) and a more prosaic tale of a fragmenting rural family all at once (it all depends on whether you buy into or see through the central protagonist’s version of events– either way, it’s a quick read and has a visceral power.) I haven’t read The Turning but that will probably last about five minutes. 😉 (Hugo also narrated a profile of Winton and read excerpts from some of his stories for the Australian documentary The Edge of The World.)

The forthcoming film features several prominent Ausralian directors (as well as actors/noted Friends of Hugo Cate Blanchett and David Wenham) each directing a different segment. Hugo’s former costars Miranda Otto and Rose Byrne have also signed to join the cast. No specifics yet on roles, and whether this will be a true anthology film where each segment has a different director and cast (a la Paris Je T’Aime), an Altmanesque film where a sprawl of different groups of characters play bout their plotlines and periodically interact between plotlines (Short Cuts) or a more experimental, thematic hybrid like Cloud Atlas… I’m betting this piece will be decidedly more earthy and less grandiose… ideally, Hugo will have a completely different sort of character (characters?) to play. At any rate, you can read initial reports at The Hollywood Reporter and The Film Stage.  THR says the film is scheduled to premiere next year, so that would suggest a winter/spring 2013 filming schedule… I’ll pass on any new info as soon as it becomes available. Between this, Mystery Road, Healing, Waiting For Godot and any additional work on The Hobbit films 2 and 3, Hugo looks to have a busy schedule for much of next year.

Cloud Atlas videos continue to appear… the latest is a compilation from Buzzine featuring comments from Hugo, Susan Sarandon, Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Sturgess, James D’Arcy, Ben Whishaw, David Mitchell, the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer. There’s a nice bonus in the form of a full transcript at the website.

I’ll continue to urge anyone who hasn’t seen Cloud Atlas to go ahead and do so while it’s still in theaters, and go again if you liked it the first time. It needs all the help we fans can give it. I do think a larger audience will catch on eventually, but there has to be word of mouth for that to work. Roger Ebert continues to champion the film on Twitter and his website, as do several film sites like Ain’t It Cool News, Collider and Cinema Blend. But the sniffy elitist and dumbed-down franchise-whore crowds may scoff, but I don’t think they’ll have the final say. I’ve been down this road too many times with films that meant something to me– we can make a difference in the long run. It’s frustrating that the short-term box office numbers may prevent other ambitious, big-budget films from being attempted.  At any rate, I’ll continue following reviews and new articles as long as they appear.

Things are still somewhat chaotic around here at the moment (I’m juggling trick-or-treaters on top of everything else) so it make take a few days to get fully up to speed. But I couldn’t delay posting these few goodies, and I hope they tide everyone over. 😉

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Cloud Atlas Post-Release Review Roundup Part 3

Note: this is an archived entry. Some links might not still work, but I have tried to ensure scan and video embeds are still in place. If any linked material is unavailable, please let me know and I’ll attempt to find a copy in my personal archives.

Yes… far too many new reviews, all of them positive or leaning-positive. Point being, don’t let the cynics or dopes talk you out of seeing this film! Once again, I will try to embellish these text posts will photos when I have more time.

Darren Goodheart, Backseat Producers: “Every now and then, we sorta need this type of film just to remind ourselves that we’re all part of a bigger picture….It’s definitely an ambitious production, and some might even think pretentious. I don’t necessarily mind a little pretension if the heart and drive is there, and it’s definitely there throughout every aspect of the film. Though it’s two separate directing units, so to speak, it’s pretty seamless in it’s presentation. Cloud Atlas runs nearly three hours long but thanks to some extremely skillful editing it moves at a breakneck pace, though it still gives you the chance to soak it all in. The production values are high and quite beautiful and equally complimented by an emotional score from Tykwer working with Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek… The greatest thing that Cloud Atlas has going for it besides it’s directorial vision is an absolutely amazing ensemble cast that literally plays parts in every single story told through the film… I was particularly impressed with Broadbent, Weaving, Sturgess, Bae and Grant- really enjoying seeing Grant play so against type in almost all of the sequences. It really is a cast to die for and they’re all committed to seeing the directors’ vision shine through… Cloud Atlas is indeed a sprawling epic in the truest sense. It’s message may be obvious, but there’s nothing wrong with that when it’s presented with this amount of heart and conviction, and underscored through a truly lavish production. Cloud Atlas is a movie that demands to be seen on a big screen to truly appreciate it’s scope. It’s a meaty and lengthy piece, but it moves at an extremely brisk pace and by it’s end.”

Joe Tyrell, New Jersey Newsroom: “[David] Mitchell wove connections among past, present and future. Only a miniseries, or a week of a shaman’s tales around the campfire, might fully capture their breadth and nuance…And yet, this epic, nearly three hours long, comes close. With their directorial work divided and movie stars taking multiple turns, the Wachowskis and Tykwer manage a decent depiction of Mitchell’s themes of the struggles of freedom against acquiescence and truth against greed… But what carries the Sonmi sections of “Cloud Atlas” are not the overbearing special effects but the intellectual fencing between Bae and D’Arcy as the “archivist” who is interrogating her to create a record for the Unanimity, the corpocracy that runs her world…Yes, “Cloud Atlas” crams in gunfire and explosions, but it also makes room for the quiet march of ideas. At once ridiculous and sublime, “Cloud Atlas” is the most movie you can get for your entertainment dollar.”

[CJ– Tyrell’s condescending comments about Hugo Weaving won’t be reprinted here– suffice to say they’re both shallow and factually incorrect. Weaving has plenty of female admirers and has played a variety of protagonists– just not in Hollywood fare. But Hollywood fare rarely offers complex characters, just good and evil flavors of cardboard.]

Rohan, Masters of Cinema: “Besides the film’s sheer beauty, breathtaking special effects, score, performances, costumes, locations, cinematography and its essential message, it is, in my opinion, will be still an arduous process for some to sit and view as films like Cloud Atlas goes far more deeper than just a story. This is the definition of age, time and how man from the beginning of time lived, experienced life in the universe; it rejects the existence of heaven and hell. Therefore, it demands its own audience. We, at times, sit and claim that the contemporary cinema lacks aspiration, desire, originality and imagination, for we at times, forget that cinema still lives in the hearts of artists…  Cloud Atlas is a wise film, for it is wisely written and directed. Challenging from its opening scene, indeed and I can tell you that it is going to take that mind of yours and test its tolerance. For some the length of this gorgeous, enthralling and epic film might be a process of enduring tedium, while for some, and I am sure about this, Cloud Atlas is entertaining and fun. Not even one minute or second of this ambitious film bored me. It is about working out the logical connections between the six stories, the characters in them, and their goals. Cloud Atlas is not only, in my opinion, important for its message or its mind-blowing special effects, performances and directing, it is because films like Cloud Atlas scares the daylights out of studios. .. It is a work of wonder as here, we are talking about, not only film-making and writing at its best, we are talking about the make-up, score, effects, locations, costumes, attention to detail. It is cinema, in my opinion, at its best.”

Richard Kniht Jr., Windy City Times: “As you are entertained by the different vignettes—the breathtaking visuals (thanks to the cinematography of Frank Grieve and John Toll), drink in Tykwer’s gorgeous music (composed in advance of shooting with his collaborators Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek) and revel in the endless human parade displayed by Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Susan Sarandon, Hugo Weaving, et al., having a grand time with their myriad characters, accents and ‘looks’—the business of trying to sort out what you’re watching dissipates because the movie is so damn entertaining….During the gestation of the project Larry Wachowski transitioned to female (becoming Lana) and, whether it’s a coincidence or not, the connecting device in the film, based on the 2004 sci-fi themed novel by David Mitchell (which Lana and brother Andy and Tykwer adapted), are the secret love letters of two gay lovers in 1936 (played by Ben Whishaw and James D’Arcy). Across the sands of time, single acts of kindness ripple and resonate but these heartbreaking, deeply emotional letters—talismans that appear and disappear at just the right moment—anchor the narrative and drive home the point that repression of minorities through the ages (sexual, ethnic, etc.) have lasting consequences on humanity as a whole.”

Fergusontx, Movie-Blogger: “Hopefully, you have not come here for answers to the many mysteries offered up by this most unique film experience. If you are the type that loves to think, analyze and discuss complex movies, you will be challenged and satisfied. If you prefer your stories clean, straightforward and gift-wrapped, you will be like some of those in my audience who walked out of the theatre at various stages -not to return… Many will describe the film as messy or convoluted, but the argument can be made that those traits add to the fun. Certainly, this won’t be to the taste of most; however, if you thrive on life’s puzzles, the film will hit your sweet spot… Especially entertaining are Hugo Weaving as a sadistic female nurse and Hugh Grant as a violent tribesman. The best laughs in the film are courtesy of the great Mr. Broadbent whose facial expressions are near clown-like in elasticity.

… You may disagree but our debates will be colorful … and may change after a second viewing!”

Omer M. Mozzaffar, Chicago Sun-Times Blog: “”Cloud Atlas” (2012), directed by the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer, is a thing of beauty, the likes of which I have not seen in American Cinema. ..[T]his film might be the best film of the decade. Nevertheless, considering how many people walked out of the screening within the first hour, I suspect that this film will successfully alienate or confuse most of its viewers, earning more appreciation in the years to come, long after most of us have expired. If you have the patience, it might take forty minutes to begin to understand it, and to subsequently immerse yourself into it… There is the overall question in the film of destiny: are we able to choose our actions, and if so, what effects do they have on the rest of the world? According to the film, the greatest choice is the choice to be the person you are. This film adds a series of censors compelling our characters into some sort of social conformity. Almost all of these censors are played by Hugo Weaving. At times, he is a greedy opportunist with giant sideburns. At times, he is a corporate hitman in a trenchcoat. At times, he is the Devil in a top hat. At times, he is a ruthless warden in the body of a frowning nurse… Fourth, continuing this point, the plot(s) would be far more coherent if the same (mostly big name) actors and actresses (primarily Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant, Keith David, and Weaving) were not re-used for almost every thread. For much of the film, this makes for a very distracting process… But, there is a method here in having the same actors and actresses play multiple characters. [L]iberation is a liberation from all boundaries.. In “Cloud Atlas,” however, the point is that true humanity is not bound by anything, that your true self is locked in a series of cages. The first cage is your gender. The second cage is your set of personal demons. The third cage is the warden (that might be disguised as a beloved). The fourth cage is society, with its institutionalized restrictions (often on appropriate and forbidden relationships). The fifth cage is time, whether we speak of the pervasive presence of each soul through the six centuries, or our need to watch this story in chronological order. And, the sixth cage of life is life itself; characters free themselves from the constraints of life in each of the ways you would imagine.” [This is a lengthy, complex metaphysical essay… if this excerpt intrigues you, do go read the rest.]

John Fleury, Examiner.com: “This is an engaging piece of filmmaking, and while some may be apprehensive of its running time of nearly 3 hours, they will find that the film spends all that time wisely… Each of these stories carry unique visual and thematic styles, tackling historical issues such as racism, still-relevent issues such as homosexuality, and the horrific possibilities of dystopian futures. What does carry over to each story is the actors used. You’ll spot the likes of Hanks, Berry, Broadbent, and others such as Keith David and Hugo Weaving multiple times as entirely different characters – some even with different ethnicities or genders… This will probably be distracting for some, but for me, it helped to gel the segments better together so that it didn’t feel like I was watching six completely unrelated movies. Certain characters do also carry over across segments, such as James D’Arcy appearing as the same character in both the 1930s and 1970s stories. Despite the unique traits each story has, I never felt like I was being jarred abruptly from one to the next as the focus continued to shift every 2 to 3 minutes… Each story is well done to a level that all six of them could theoretically be their own movie if the writers were willing to flesh them out to a longer length… Cloud Atlas is easily one of the years’ most ambitious films, and I think it’s a gamble that pays off. Other reviews have been very mixed, and I can’t fault either side for feeling the way they do. In some ways, I think the movie is surprisingly accessible, while other aspects I feel will not be for everyone. Speaking for myself, I enjoyed it, and I have a feeling that it it could grow to have a large following as more people discover it over the years. If you are curious to see just what this movie is all about, I recommend you find out and come to your own conclusions. The film certainly seems to be made with that idea in mind.”Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald: “The Wachowskis create a gleaming, meticulously rendered future-world where every tiny detail fascinates, from the colors of a restaurant menu to the design of police spacecraft, and where the thunderous action is staged in the style of old-fashioned cliffhangers, with narrow escapes and relentless chases…Tykwer opts for a slower, gentler pace, using the piece of music his character composes, entitled The Cloud Atlas Sextet, as a theme that recurs through the movie’s score, and ending his story with the single most moving moment in the film — the only time, really, when this enormous movie achieves any emotional intimacy and touches the heart… Editor Alexander Berner has been tasked with the daunting task of intertwining all these disparate storylines, looking for natural overlaps and recurring themes to connect the tales into a single, enormous tapestry. He doesn’t succeed. As a whole, Cloud Atlas doesn’t hang together.. And yet: Even at nearly three hours, Cloud Atlas never sags, because the film doesn’t spend enough time on the bad stories to derail the good ones (it’s like surfing through six different TV channels). And as distracting as the makeup jobs can be, the stunt of casting famous actors in various roles sometimes pays off. Hanks is terrific in the 1846 tale as a doctor pretending to tend to a sick man while he’s actually poisoning him, and he’s even better in a brief appearance in the London story as a thuggish author who exacts radical revenge on a critic who panned his book. Berry’s best work is her turn as the investigative reporter who may be nosing into dangerous corners, and she even pulls off the small role of a white Jewish woman in the 1936 strand (the makeup work is so effective, she’s almost unrecognizable)… Cloud Atlas is more of a spin-off on the original text — a kind of bonus supplement — than a true adaptation. The film departs so radically from Mitchell, it stands alone as its own thing. Visually, the movie is beautiful…  onsidering the density and breadth of the movie, the potential for confusion was great. But Cloud Atlas is clear and easy to follow, and the constant intercutting and juxtaposing create a kind of momentum that serves as a sort of unique hyper-narrative. I wish the filmmakers had come up with better ways other than shared birthmarks and handed-down letters to tie the whole picture together. But if you’re interested in the sheer craft of moviemaking, Cloud Atlas is required viewing – a rare example of a movie getting by entirely on technique and creative bravado.”Mike Wilmington, Movie City News: “I loved it. And for once, I’m speechless… Mitchell arranged his novel in six parts, advancing chronologically, and those parts  kept breaking off in the middle to bring in part of the last chapter. Then he finished up with the resolution of all six stories, this time in reverse (or mirror) order. It’s a tricky structure, maybe not as tricky as Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire, with its tell-tale footnotes.  So, to lessen the confusion, I suggest you google and read a long synopsis before seeing it.  It would be best to read the novel first, of course, but I realize that’s not an option for lots of us.  Later, maybe… [T]he actors take multiple roles, and that’s not a stunt. The galleries of roles reinforce Mitchell’s theme of reincarnation and of souls traveling from body to body. The movie, meanwhile, has many forms itslef. It’s full of romance and mystery and action and spectacle and humor.. So…You must see it. For yourself. Even if you despise it, you’ll have fun vivisecting it afterwards. It’s 164 minutes long, and, as Roger Ebert has said, there’s not a boring second in it. Befuddling  maybe. Boring no.”

James Berardinelli, Reelviews: “They key to successfully absorbing the movie may be in not trying to overthink what’s on screen. Decoding the thin strands that connect stories to each other is a journey better embarked upon by those watching it for a second or third time… Visually, there’s no doubting Cloud Atlas’ power to arrest; this is one of those movies that deserves to be seen on a big screen (and, thankfully, there’s no 3-D involved). The most eye-popping sequences occur during the 22nd century story, where comparisons to Blade Runner, The Fifth Element, and the Star Wars prequels will be made , but the effects work is no less effective (although not as ostentatious) during the other episodes… Of all the actors, Hanks gets to have the most fun, playing a profanity-spewing thug out of a Guy Ritchie movie, a sleazy doctor, a self-serving hotel receptionist, a whistleblower, an exaggerated Jim Broadbent, and a futuristic tribesman. Hugo Weaving, who memorably played Agent Smith in The Matrix, appears in all six stories in full villain mode. The poor guy doesn’t even get one opportunity to play a sympathetic character, instead essaying (among others) a ruthless hitman, a Nurse Ratched type, and a demonic entity… If anything, Cloud Atlas’ allowing actors to cross racial lines can be seen as an emphasis of the universality of the human experience rather than a repudiation of it… Some viewers will no doubt believe they have experienced something more transcendent than what’s actually on screen, and who am I to dispute them? However, taken as little more than six disconnected shorts featuring the same group of players in different roles, Cloud Atlas works. It’s entertaining and the manner in which it has been edited reduces one’s tendency to lose patience with the less engaging stories. It’s not an Oscar contender and probably won’t break any box office records but, as one of the most expensive indie productions ever assembled, it has accomplished many things – not the least of which is translating an ‘unfilmable’ novel into a motion picture that is both coherent and able to retain the soul of its source material.”

Frank Howley/Tumblr: “Because of its colossal ambition, the film took a while to grow on me, but once I was able to connect its sprawling plots it really struck and surprised me by being intensely life-affirming. I’m still elated as I write about it, the film put me in such a positive mood of reflection and ultimately its beautiful message of humanity made me cry… Once I was able to grasp where each story was headed, I let everything blend together and it became incredibly impressive to watch. Some stories connected better than others, but the editing and presentation is fully awe-inspiring. Everything cuts so fast together and moves along quickly, so that even weaker segments don’t bog the film down… Cloud Atlas is one of most ridiculously ambitious films of its time and still manages to succeed. Mostly funded from foreign investors outside of the Hollywood system, it’s a bold new move in the world of transnational cinema. Please see Cloud Atlas in theaters if you can. By showing up and supporting the film, you’re making an important vote that you want to see bold and inventive cinema.  ”

Period Piece: “Ambitious. Thought provoking. Expertly crafted. Cloud Atlas is a film which for the casual viewer will provide entertainment, for the cinephile perhaps obsession… In our world we are inundated with films which are content to neither make us feel nor make us think, and only ever to do either one under the canopy of their ideologies. This is a film which peels back the layers of the sky, where the Earth is a blue shimmer which we may perceive as we wish, and we are free to both think and feel profoundly. Our heroes are people, human in both their frailty and the immense conviction of their love. For their lives to have significance, they must impart something to others, often with a confidence that defies their immediate circumstances… There is little to be said about the cast which has not been said before as most are legends or little short of, only that they are capable of underlining the poignancy in each others’ performances despite being separated by vast oceans of time and circumstance. Ben Whishaw and James D’Arcy create an intricate, heartbreaking tale told in stares across such oceans… This is one of those films which will be referenced by mainstream media for two weeks or so and then quietly fade away, like the notes of an adagio under the crashes and bangs of whatever cymbal (most likely Skyfall) happens to be struck next. I guarantee you it will not fade so quickly from your memory. It is a film that you will be glad to have seen, even at a rather prodigious running time of 2 hours and 45 minutes.”

Ron Hogan, Den of Geek: “Cloud Atlas is a visually stunning work of art. The movie’s multiple settings are all wonderfully rendered, and each is instantly recognizable after only a few frames. You can tell the Wachowskis are involved at several points, particularly in the special effects-heavy Neo Seoul. It’s very stylish and they build an effective, interesting world. In fact, all of the movie’s settings feel epic, and are shot accordingly. Even 70s era San Francisco feels epic, in spite of the grime. This is an absolutely gorgeous movie…. Perhaps more impressive than even the scenery is the makeup. Using the same cast members for a multitude of roles is always a dicey proposition, but the makeup is what sells it….  The acting choices are also skillful. This is an all-star cast in every sense of the word. While some choices, and some of Tom Hanks’ accents, don’t work, that’s to be expected when you play six different roles in a movie, alternating three or four of them within a week of shooting. Hugo Weaving plays a great devil in Old Georgie, Hugh Grant plays an excellent sleazy businessman, Hanks is never not good, and James D’Arcy has what might be the toughest role in playing the young and old versions of Rufus Sixsmith. Still, in a cast full of brilliant performers and performances, the real stand-out is Doona Bae, who ties the whole thing together as the replicant Soonmi 451. She’s the face of this film, and she provides the performance that drives the movie’s ultimate point home… While it all ties together beautifully at the end, it can be a difficult journey to undertake. It’s wonderful, and the weaker segments are easily supported by the superior segments (the literary agent, Neo Seoul)….  However, for all its flaws, Cloud Atlas is still a brave attempt and a successful adaptation of the impossible novel. It’s long, and it can be difficult, but it’s worthwhile. The acting is brilliant, the team of the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer acquit themselves very well, and the editing is deft. It should not be nearly as successful as it is, and that’s a credit to the drive and desire of the filmmakers. If you have the nearly three hours to spare, give Cloud Atlas a chance. It may never make complete sense if you try to connect the parts together, but what about life makes sense? It’s an experience. Enjoy it.”

K. Dale Koontz, Unfettered Brilliance: “I have to say, I’ve never seen anything like this movie. Ever. I think it’s absolutely brilliant and let me explain why… All too often today, films lack ambition. Worse, they don’t trust the audience to figure anything out, so the storytelling tends to be ‘tell,’ rather than ‘show.’ Cloud Atlas trusts you to be able to connect the dots (by the way, a ‘cloud atlas’ is a real thing) and expects you to try….  There’s certainly some Carl Jung in here – I caught myself mulling over the concept of archetypes and the collective unconscious after the credits ran. And Joseph Campbell would swoon over this film.  Swoon….Some will balk at the length. Some will balk at the pidgin language used in one part. Some will balk at the mixing of time periods….I think all of these people are missing the point…Oh, and about the pidgin language part. I’ve read some criticism that griped that this part should come with subtitles. Really, buddy? Stop taking snarky notes on your popcorn bucket and try concentrating. (I know – that was snarky. Trust me, it was deserved.)…To sum up, Cloud Atlas is a movie for viewers who are willing to settle in for a long ride, who aren’t afraid to think and who can still marvel at the way a movie can touch us emotionally.”

Cloud Atlas Post-Release Review Roundup Part 2

Note: this is an archived entry. Some links might not still work, but I have tried to ensure scan and video embeds are still in place. If any linked material is unavailable, please let me know and I’ll attempt to find a copy in my personal archives.

[I hope the rest will fit here… Again. I’ll try to add photos, etc later today if I still have power. But I wanted to get this massive sampling of reviews up before I lose it.]

Dave White, Movies.com: “With three creators working to seamlessly tell multiple stories and interpret the novel by David Mitchell in a way that makes cinematic rather than literary sense, pinning down a single precise meaning or motivation is a game you could play all day.And reading the entire film as Lana Wachowski’s transgender coming out statement is too reductive. It’s in there, of course, and not just the parts where Hugo Weaving plays the meanest female nursing home employee in the world. But that’s not all there is. There’s a lot of everything… The filmmakers have bitten off way more than even three people can chew and that unwieldy quality is also what pushes it toward exhilaration. It’s silly and tonally jarring, but silly can be endearing. It’s also moving, something sci-fi doesn’t often accomplish… Walk out after twenty minutes and you’ll shortchange yourself, missing the complete experience of a movie taking a big goofy dare. Just stay put and show some respect for its enormous, ridiculous, mystical balls. They’re huge.”

Robert Denerstein, Denerstein Unleashed: “Directed by Lana Wachowski, Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer, the movie probably shouldn’t work at all. It alternates (not always elegantly) between six stories in six different genres, involves actors playing multiple roles, tests the limits of make-up artistry and tries to wrap things up with a cosmic bang that makes room for a string of woozy ideas about reincarnation, the connectedness of all life, the elasticity of boundaries and more…. You can tell that the two Wachowskis and Tykwer are after something big, but Cloud Atlas seems to work best in small doses, as its many stories unfold…

You also can express gratitude to the movie gods that Halle Berry, in a variety of roles, seems to have subdued her instincts for overdoing things. I’m sure I’m forgetting someone, but the rest of the cast includes Susan Sarandon, James D’Arcy, Ben Whishaw, David Keith and many more actors of varying pay grades…Credit Weaving for outdoing Louise Fletcher in a Nurse Ratched-like role, part of the segment in which Broadbent’s publisher character is confined to an asylum… But there’s no denying the Wachowskis and Tykwer also whip up some magical images. If nothing else, the movie tends toward visual opulence, some of it expressed with wit.”

 

Trevor Link, Spectrum Culture: “Its message is simple, like a nugget of raw knowledge, but the extrapolations one may make from it are endless, and it embodies a preternatural resistance to cynicism. The performances belong to another era as well, exhibiting a pre-modernist, rather populist theatricality, suited to the film’s deeply committed romanticism, which wafts with a pleasantly old-fashioned air. Tom Hanks, one of the few Hollywood actors who can pull off this manner of utterly unpretentious showmanship, is the perfect avatar for a film that so nakedly wears its heart on its sleeve. Most daring of all, some of the cast play characters who differ in race and gender from their own, a potential obstacle for those who fail to see the filmmakers’ intent. In short, Cloud Atlas is not fashionable, but it is quite remarkable, a deeply personal independent film, made with a budget of over $100 million and the explicit intent to make a true work of art by a group of filmmakers that includes the most visible transgender director to ever make a feature film. It’s astounding that this film even exists… Cloud Atlas pivots between centuries with such agility that slivers of experience, separated by generations, criss-cross one another rapidly and spontaneously, a free play of temporal events highlighting unforeseen interconnections and generating new, multiplicative meanings at an exponential pace… The effect[of the editing and narrative cross-cutting] is thrilling and new, something perhaps never witnessed ever before in cinema on this scale, and despite the film’s significant dept to its literary origins, this is a decidedly cinematic effect: it is because we identify these individuals with their actors’ bodies first and foremost—this is true even when the characters are under makeup and prosthetics, as they frequently are—that we draw links between these characters that function quite differently than anything literature can achieve… The relationship between the varied characters each actor plays is never made clear—is it a kind of reincarnation or merely some form of synchronicity like the butterfly effect?—but Cloud Atlas is greater for leaving these interconnections mysterious, more poetic than explanatory… That all of these are equal suggests not that all actions or fates are the same but that each movement towards the humanistic ideal embodied by the film is momentous in and of itself, in whatever form it takes. Like any parable, Cloud Atlas’ core is shockingly simple, but the depth of the ethical world it constructs, connecting actions separated by decades and centuries, is nothing short of ennobling in its massive scope.”

Charlie Jane Anders, io9: “Fittingly, how you wind up feeling about Cloud Atlas depends very much on your vantage point: the individual pieces, when you pull them out separately, are sometimes quite dismal. But when you pull back and look at the movie as a whole, it’s dazzling, and ultimately pretty satisfying. It’s just one more layer of meta in a film that’s jammed full of meta: the film’s deeply flawed greatness is an extension of its themes of the whole being more than the sum of its parts. And the world being the sum of good and bad choices. In any case, this is one film you should see for yourself…With any film, there are two versions: the version you watch at the time, and the version that reconstitutes itself in your mind the next day when you’re in the shower. We tend to judge films based on the latter, hot-shower version. Sometimes it takes a few days after you see a film for an overall verdict to crystallize in your mind, with all the pieces falling into place. But Cloud Atlas seems to be a special case: I saw it days ago, and it’s still refusing to come into focus, although I feel as though I mostly liked it a lot…   I haven’t even mentioned how stylish a lot of it is. Even while you’re gawping at the weird makeup, you’re also gasping at some terrific production design and a lot of beautifully filmed action. Viewed purely as an action movie, or as a set of stories about characters who are on different journeys, Cloud Atlas is a great thrillride. And it earns a lot of goodwill for having a powerful ending, that actually makes all of its messages about the individual and society feel profound rather than trite. I walked out of this film feeling as though I’d seen a great film that included some ultra-questionable decisions, and I still feel that way…Here’s the best way to describe Cloud Atlas that I’ve come up with: it’s like one of those gourmet meals that includes really pungent French cheese and fresh goat brains and stuff. But if you can deal with some really wrong flavors, the aftertaste might actually leave you really super happy that you ate the whole thing.”

Jasper Zweibel, PolicyMic: “Cancel your plans for tonight, and go see Cloud Atlas. I’m serious. The Wachowskis (formerly brothers), have achieved absolute success in what was by far the most ambitious film I have ever seen. There are so many reasons why this movie should have been a disaster: the sprawling plot, the enormous demands on the actors and art directors, the oft intense melodrama, and the sheer length of it to boot. But it all worked. Not one of the 164 minutes of Cloud Atlas was anything less than supremely entertaining… Within each story there is action, comedy, and drama, all of which are executed to perfection. I laughed, I cried, and I was on the edge of my seat. All those cliches and more were true of me as I rode the Cloud Atlas roller-coaster. Admittedly, some of the melodrama drew chuckles from one or two audience members, but not from me. I was sold 100% throughout the film… As for the acting, it is phenomenal across the board. Cloud Atlas has a true ensemble cast, so while Tom Hanks and Halle Berry get top billing, they are no more integral to the success of the film than anyone else. Hugo Weaving, Doona Bee, Jim Sturgess, and Ben Whishaw are all sensational, and Jim Broadbent is downright hilarious in his primary role as Timothy Cavendish…  Changing an actors age convincingly is challenge enough, and gender is even tougher, but never has a film attempted to so boldly change the race of its actors. I honestly don’t know how they pulled it off, but they did, and the result is magical… There is simply no way to take in all of Lana and Andy Wachowski’s masterful filmmaking in one sitting. I cannot wait to see it again, and you shouldn’t wait to see it once. A+”

Wired has three different critics take on the film’s different components (acting, script, symbolism, etc) and all three rate it 7 or 8 out of 10; Since their format is unique and difficult to excerpt, head over to their website.

Ryan McNeil, The Matinee: “A funny thing happened on the way to writing this review; I discussed the film at length on a podcast. There, my friend Kurt bemoaned the fact that many of the lessons CLOUD ATLAS wants to teach are lessons we’ve learned all these lessons by now. I said it then, and I’ll say it now: I don’t think we have learned these lessons after all. I don’t think the whole world knows that big companies aren’t interested in protecting their employees. I don’t think the whole world knows that the ruthless will always feed on the week. And I don’t think that everyone has yet learned that their reputation is firmly in the hands of those too willing to destroy it…. I think that many either haven’t learned these lessons yet – or have conveniently forgotten them – and that’s how we find ourselves where we are. We find ourselves in that place where, to paraphrase Louisa, we make the same mistakes over and over again…  To help us understand why, CLOUD ATLAS paints on a massive canvas. It brings together its six narratives in a way that is both disjointed and yet strangely complimentary. It’s as if we are spending a restless night drifting in and out of dreams and nightmares, and we have lost sense of what is a dream and what is reality. That audacity in its storytelling leads CLOUD ATLAS to lose us for a little while towards the end of the second act. However, right around the moment when we are ready to throw up our hands in surrender, the story finds us. It takes us by the hand, and guides us the rest of the way home… Yes, we might very well find ourselves playing a part we’ve heard before. However, even though the song remains the same, it’s a song of hope…and one that we must continue to play until every last note is heard and understood.” (4 out of 4 stars)

Harry Knowles, Ain’t It Cool News: “The film, for me, dove into a realm of spirituality and soul that is non-denominational, but felt right.   A lot of couples that get married talk about that moment in which their eyes first locked.  It’s a powerful moment – even now in my memory – the greatest thing I’ve ever seen were the eyes of the woman I married.   And I knew it almost instantly.   It changed me fairly radically.   But that first moment, that electrical connection – that memory – the feeling it hits me with.   That’s explored in this film.  You find that there are people you don’t like and yet you don’t know why – you just don’t like them & worse their very existence seems to be there to drive you insane.   Why do things happen to us?  Why are there so many coincidences.   WHY is it the way it is?…CLOUD ATLAS explores the possibilities.   Explores them with three amazing filmmaking talents directing.   Tom Tykwer, Andy & Lana Wachowski.   They’ve made a mesmerizing film that as I’ve described thus far may seem like an impenetrable mess of juxtaposed existences manipulated by filmmakers to create the exact feelings that I’m going off on, but it isn’t a mess.   It isn’t impenetrable.   It isn’t boring or cold.   It isn’t being stuffed down your throat…. People use the term mind-blowing – this is what they’re talking about….Run to this.   You claim you’re tired of the same fucking shit every time you go to a theater.   Well go to this.   Then realize you’re going to buy the score – and you’re going to sit at you computer as you listen to it and tearfully explain to this dear friend, lover or associate why you must see this film with them.   This film is to be experienced with the people in life whom you enjoy your favorite conversations.   The conversations that you take to heart and that mean the world to you at 5 am on a long night.   See this with someone you love to experience new things with.   Someone that if you look at them in the movie, they’re looking at you at the exact moment you look at them with the same, “HOLY SHIT” look blazed upon their faces.This is the best thing opening today, by leaps and bounds! “

Eric Samdahl, Film Jabber: “Four years after the disaster that was Speed Racer, the Wachowskis have redeemed themselves, as Cloud Atlas is one of the better movies of 2012….Also co-directed by Tom Tykwer, Cloud Atlas is an elaborate, beautiful film that mesmerizes from start to finish. Despite featuring a complex array of stories and characters, the movie is not a mind bender. Early on, one of the characters narrates to the audience, in more eloquent words, ‘to be patient as everything will make sense soon enough.’ It does… Hanks is terrific, even when he’s hamming it up as a big city criminal with anger issues. Jim Broadbent is great as usual. Doona Bae, who plays the film’s most critical role, is stellar. Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, Keith David and James D’Arcy also turn in fine performances. Susan Sarandon is good in a limited role, and Hugh Grant is simply fun to watch (his most memorable role is as a quintessential Hugh Grant character: a jungle cannibal). I’ll even give compliments to Halle Berry, who delivers her first good performance since 2001’s Monster Ball…Some stories and characters work better than others, which is understandable given there are approximately 273 combinations… Hugo Weaving is largely wasted, reduced to forgettable villain roles… But in the scheme of a sweeping three-hour film, those issues are minor. The Wachowskis and Tykwer have pulled off what some apparently would consider the impossible, and it’s a pretty stunning result.”

Travis Keune, We Are Movie Geeks: “THE MATRIX trilogy may be their most recognizable work, but I would contend that CLOUD ATLAS is Andy and Lana Wachowski‘s most profound, accomplished film to date…  CLOUD ATLAS features a line-up of talented stars rarely seen in one film. Leading the cast are Tom Hanks and Halle Berry , whose roles form the primary storyline throughout time, but are not the sole focal point of the film. Hugh Grant delivers performances far outside his normal wheelhouse, delivering some truly unlikeable characters in addition to the enjoyably villainous characters delivered by Hugo Weaving. Weaving, who you may remember as the relentless Agent Smith from THE MATRIX, is much more accustomed to these roles, but seeing Hugh Grant take on this new type of role is refreshing, especially given how well he adapts… CLOUD ATLAS is immeasurably satisfying and uplifting, although few are likely to leave the theater having fully understood the massive scope of this enigmatic cinematic puzzle… CLOUD ATLAS can be an intimidating film to take on, but only on the surface. Once engaged, the film flows surprisingly well, leaping in time from one life to another, setting the viewer up to discover one connection after the other. The whole of the film is tied together by a number of things, one being the actors playing multiple roles…The other significant element that serves as the most intoxicating adhesive is the original score from Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek and especially Tom Tykwer for his Cloud Atlas title piece of classically-inspired music…. The viewer’s eyes and ears will relish the feast that is CLOUD ATLAS and what the viewer witnesses is likely to stay with them indefinitely, resonating with an endless amount of food for thought as connections continually get made beyond the initial viewing.” (4.5 out of 5 stars)

Volkmar Richter, The Vancouver Observer: “This is one of the most intellectually expansive films ever made for a mass audience and that may be a handicap. While it’s smart and almost academic and gets your brain working, it doesn’t  as much engage your emotions. You marvel (for almost three hours) at the grand achievement and the sheer size and complexity. You work at it like a puzzle trying to discern how the pieces go together and what they all mean… Ultimately they’re all linked by something that carries on, possibly the soul, more likely ideas. They transfer from one time to the next. There’s always somebody who’s inspired to fight for freedom. Conversely, there’s always the need to fight for it. The film gets all that across in scenes that aren’t always consistent but are beautifully designed. Transitions are often clever.” (3.5 out of 5 Stars)

Philebrity: “Somehow, with all the thematic and tone changes (Jim Broadbent‘s main story is a flat-out comedy, while Doona Bae‘s is a futuristic action-thriller that has the Wachowski stamp all over it), everything still seems to fit together pretty nicely. Perhaps that is due to the near-constant hopping across narrative lines, the general aesthetic, or the over-arching themes that run through everything. It is visually stunning, the score is fantastic, and the acting is … well … mostly-good… The whole thing is an exercise in film-watching stamina (at over 160 minutes). It’s really a marvel if you allow it to be, and for that to happen, you may have to forgive some surface issues for the sake of depth of content. But it’s worth it.”

Edward Davidson, The MacGuffin: “Featuring a cast of well-known actors playing multiple roles in six different time periods, layered under often clever make-up effects, the film is both big and intimate. For the most part it works. It might not be quite as emotionally moving as it aspires to be, but decoding the various story threads gives the audience the pleasure of filling in some of edges of the plots… What works best is the shorthand that the film is able to use throughout. For instance, when showing a future where ‘fabricants’ are manufactured as servants to service consumers they regard as holy, it’s fun for the audience to fill in the gaps in that story. You can quickly extrapolate how our society would reach a place like that. All of the story threads seem to work in this way, where we jump right into the worlds of these characters without much explanation. We don’t always need it… The gimmick of actors in multiple roles is fun. Hugo Weaving as a shamanistic kind of boogeyman in the future while also playing a female Nurse-Ratched-type character in the present as well as various other bad guys throughout is wonderful to watch. Hugh Grant appearing as a ’70s era businessman, a devilish senior citizen in the present, and a loin-clothed bloodthirsty cannibal in the future is particularly effective. The whole game of spot-the-actor that runs throughout is a clever hook. But it also reinforces the themes of interconnectedness that ties all of these tales together… There are some nitpicks. The pigeon-English slang that Hanks and Berry use in the farthest future story is sure to be eventually mocked by comedians… And while everyone will probably debate this movie endlessly, and while it does have some interestingly poignant statements to make about humanity, in the end the film may not be quite as deep as it wishes it is. Yes, love, freedom, and bravery are universally great. But I think we kind of already knew that… But the actors are having a fabulously watchable good time. Despite all the big-name talent on display, the heart of Cloud Atlas belongs to Doona Bae as the fabricant newly realizing she has a larger role to play in the world. She makes a real impression. Also, Broadbent in the senior citizen home is the most comically charming of the bunch. In fact, as high a concept and as big a production as this is, the whole affair has a large bit of theatricality to it. Since the stories are all cut up and presented out of order, you are left with a lot of individual two-person scenes that are quite compelling.”

Mic LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle: “There is something new going on in 21st century movies, a strain of films attempting to convey the entire experience of life in a single movie. Alejandro Inárritu has tried this, with lesser (“Babel”) and greater (“Biutiful”) success, and so has Terrence Malick (“The Tree of Life”). “Cloud Atlas,” more successful than most, is the biggest effort yet in this new vein – enormous in length and scope, a film whose purpose doesn’t even begin to come into focus until two hours in… “Cloud Atlas” attempts to depict endless cycles of recurrence, the moral patterns of human existence….If that sounds ambitious and challenging, it is. The filmmakers are betting on audiences being both willing to pay close attention, as underlying connections emerge, and willing to go along for a ride, without a clue as to the destination. The filmmakers are gambling, in fact, on the intelligence and patience of the sci-fi action audience. Let’s wish them luck… Still, despite some weaknesses, a sense gradually emerges in this film- not just an idea, but a strong feeling mixed with an idea – about the dance of good and evil over time. It’s a grown-up person’s vision: When you’re young, it’s possible to believe that evil can be vanquished. As you get older, you realize that evil never stops changing shapes and faces. In ‘Cloud Atlas,’ the monster can be beaten, but always comes back, but always can be beaten. There can never be a happy ending, but there can be a mature consolation that, in itself, has grandeur and is the opposite of despair…I hope ‘Cloud Atlas’ finds its audience.”

Karl Pfeifffer: “It would be wrong to say that this film is about karma or reincarnation. Those are labels, attached by cultures and adopted by societies, and so carry with them connotations and likely inaccuracies. Cloud Atlas seeks to transcend these instances, these windows of the world that we’re used to looking through in our daily lives (indeed, it’s our only view), and study something broader, if not greater… Though at times some of the voice overs and thematic lines feel forced and even obviously trite, I think that’s the risk of a movie trying to do such grand thematic play. And it’s forgivable so long as the depth backs it up. The audience after all are all watching at different levels. And sometimes just pointing out that these character’s souls stretch through the movie, while overt to some, might bring the pieces together for others….The visual components were fantastic. The acting was fantastic. The desire by Lana, Andy, and Tom Tykwer to make this book into a movie permeated the film, and to know that they did it independently, is even more of an accomplishment. Movies that take this kind of risk need to be supported. Hollywood needs to take these kinds of epic risks more often. Because we absolutely need brilliance of this measure on our screens… The actors have the challenge of playing characters of all races and genders. Asians play white characters, male plays female, white as Asian and all back again. This is the necessity demanded of this script. If you want to call it yellowface, you’ve utterly missed the point. That said, it’s not always elegant…Cloud Atlas is a massive scope of a story, and for these three to fit it in one three-hour movie experience, and as elegantly as they did, a true masterwork was accomplished here. And if you’re not left moved by the end of the movie, I hope you’re moved to think about the other impossibilities that this film has now made realistic. A ”

Flame Magazine: “Every once in a while a film comes along that changes your perception of what a motion picture can be, and makes you stop in awe and wonder.’Cloud Atlas’ is that film…. Each character’s journey is somehow a part of the other. Each character’s soul is inexplicably connected to each other throughout time. “Cloud Atlas” is a rich tapestry, so visually stunning and breathtaking. You’re drawn into this universe, more like a celebration of the human spirit, on so many levels. It’s a thriller, it’s a comedy of errors, it’s a love story, and it’s a sci-fi epic. Each actor plays at least three or more characters in any given story or scenario. Even here, the boundaries are bent… I would be surprised if there weren’t any Oscar® nominations in their future. In some cases the transformations are so subtle, you aren’t even aware of them. As the credits are presented at the end of the film and you get to see just who was who, you will be pleasantly surprised. It’s amazing to see just how talented these actors are as they embrace so many different roles.”

Anubhav DasGhupta, Bombay Nerds: “Cloud Atlas is by no means a crappy film. It’s a great one, with some great performances, brilliant cinematography, sublime makeup work, astounding visual effects, but I can see why people may hate it…. Firstly, it’s anything but conventional. You’ve got actors playing multiple roles across different time periods; women play males, males play women, white actors play asians and asians play white people. Then there’s six storylines, and the film tends to jump haphazardly from one story to another. The film gives you no time to breathe, or to go and take a leak. It demands your constant attention. Miss a single beat and you’re screwed. The weird, mumbly dialect in one of the stories doesn’t help either…Cloud Atlas cannot be reviewed. To write a review that’ll decide if people should go spend their money on it or not is an act of sin. Don’t look at the Rottentomatoes ratings, or the ridiculous yellowface accusations. Go and fucking watch this film.” [CJ– You tell ’em!]

Mark Jackson, The Epoch Times: “Cloud Atlas is a majestic tapestry depicting the interwoven skeins of human lifetimes; all the actors reappear in all the scenes. We normally can’t see dead people, but that doesn’t mean they’re not like threads disappearing below the tapestry’s surface and resurfacing elsewhere…. Across the board, this film is packed with sumptuous visual riches. It’s beautifully shot, lit, costumed, directed, and acted…. With the six quickly shifting and flipping storylines, multiple actors reincarnating in multiple roles and lifetimes, makeup that sometimes renders them unrecognizable, and various and occasionally unintelligible accents and patois, it gets a bit hectic. Add to that lots of action in the form of fast-moving futuristic gunships and explosions, slave horse-whippings, replicant euthanasia, and a fair amount of tribal bloodletting—it takes a keen intellect to sort it all out.”

David Chase, Beyond the Marquee: “Let me just say that no review will ever do this film the justice, this is a cinematic movie that MUST be watched, experienced and digested. Yes the film is close to 3 hours long, yes, there are many characters and several plot-lines, and yes you’d better pee and get your popcorn before it starts because you will not want to miss a single minute of it… Whereas in some movies an actor is made-up into a role with heavy prosthetics or wardrobe, Cloud Atlas goes to the extreme and pushes, breaks and creates new boundaries for it’s cast… Men become women, women become men, the young are aged and the aged are made into women…and it’s easy to accept. Yeah the make-up at times seems a little over-the-top, almost too defined, but then others are so well concealed that you’re scanning the credits at the end going ‘That’s who that was!?!’ One thing is for sure, the make-up is a true contender for an Academy Award and it’s evident the actors had a fun time in these varied and dynamic roles!.. I say this is an epic movie because the story-telling is big, though at times you really need to pay attention to details, and other times details are just glossed over, but the scope of the stories within the big picture are engrossing enough, but then to watch it all un-fold to see how it all connects in the end is what really is impressive.”

Jeremy Kirk, FirstShowing,net: “It’ll be difficult not to dip into hyperbole, but that’s what you get with something as ambitious as Cloud Atlas, a film that easily leads the year as most daring and bar none the most satisfying movie experience. The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer have reached into a novel best described as inscrutable – Some would aptly call it cloudy – and pulled out a visual feast every bit as much for the brain as it is the eyes. Cloud Atlas is the kind of film you need a break from, or its grand themes and colossal structure might overwhelm. But the rewards in experiencing and reflecting on it are precisely why we love films…. The characters we meet in these settings and their stories unfold quickly, Andy & Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer keeping the film’s momentum always on the go. At first, Cloud Atlas feels like a deluge, your mind working overtime to keep up with who or where or what we’re seeing. The uninitiated might throw their hands up in frustration when Doona Bae’s Sonmi-451 appears, throwing what’s previously been a period piece into the stylishly computerized world of tomorrow. But the Wachowskis and Tykwer understand their audience needs establishment, and their fast-paced introduction to these six stories right at the top of the film is a required foothold needed to let yourself sink into the overall story… Each of the stories work on their own, but they also fit into the grand scope of what could only be referred to as the design of the world perfectly. Bits of information learned in one has a hand in the events shown in another, and every action by every character ends up having a purpose, almost a guide for Event A and how it leads to Event Z. Forget the Butterfly Effect. That’s a ripple in a pond compared to the grand-scale ideas at work here… Nearly every actor in the film plays multiple roles, some switching up age, race, or even gender between parts… However, the intricate way in which every detail of this film is handled keeps the wheels on the track, and where most inexperienced or mediocre filmmakers might offer up an ugly wreck of a film, the three at work here have given us what could be viewed in years to come as a masterpiece. Hugo Weaving showing up in drag might bring up scattered unintentional laughter, but even that fits in with the story and tone at hand… Each actor takes absolute charge with each of their roles, as well, most of them quite literally disappearing in front of our eyes under heavy makeup..  [E]veryone in Cloud Atlas does a remarkable job, the chameleon aspect of much of their roles only a part of the praise…  Some film makers are just working on a grander scale than others, and while Michael Bay and James Cameron are making mindless or semi-mindless adventures that look like a billion dollars, the Wachowskis and Tykwer are reaching for something with a deeper meaning. Cloud Atlas is another experience from them that brings an audacity and visual extravagance to a beautiful, moving, and audacious story about love and the effects such works of art have for future generations. Cloud Atlas is a film intended to endure, and bravo to the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer for making it such an awesome experience. Jeremy’s Rating: 10 out of 10”

Daniel Pinto, DNA: “The best kind of science fiction film is not necessarily the one which can take you on the most imaginative ride or offer the best-looking vistas, but that which manages to be thought-provoking and sometimes, like any great work of art, a heart-wrenching reflection on the human condition… Even though the viewer is pulled and flung from one world to the next, the flow of the story, action and the suspense is well-regulated. Life, its eternal recurrence, the good and evil in human nature, the vagaries of the cosmos – merely one canvas can seldom do justice of such lofty themes. But at 172 minutes, Cloud Atlas tries to get the job done… [Hugo] Weaving, as he does so well in the Wachowskis’ Matrix trilogy, plays the antagonising forces through history. Embodying the age-old might-is-right mentality, he chews up the scenery from a slave herder to a female nurse (!) to a satanic Dr Hyde-esque vision that haunts the tormented tribesman Zachry, played by Hanks (who himself has an unsavoury past as the poisonous Dr Goose, an avaricious innkeeper and the loose cannon writer who lands editor Timothy Cavendish, played by the brilliant Broadbent, into trouble). Grant is also suitably slimy  essaying the roles of the head of the evil nuclear project, the unforgiving brother and the tattooed scavenger of the future. Berry is just about all right, mostly as the agent of good, sometimes completely hidden under prosthetics- as everyone else- when an extra in somebody else’s story. Whishaw playing the rakish but reflective musician Robert Frobisher, whose life takes a tragic turn in the film’s opening and and D’Arcy as his wistful scientist lover, lends great gravity to the film…Part special effects extravaganza, part morality tale, the massively ambitious Cloud Atlas is more than a worthwhile watch.”

Bruce Handy, Vanity Fair: “Cloud Atlas, which stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, and a bunch of other people, all playing multiple roles with the help of all kinds of age, race, and gender makeup, is one of the single most entertaining movies I have ever seen. It’s also, in an equally ambitious and crazily pulpy way, one of the silliest… I should add that, for me, ‘silly’ isn’t always a pejorative—in politics or business, yes, but not necessarily in entertainment, and certainly not in comedy (Jerry Lewis and Benny Hill notwithstanding). What’s silly about Cloud Atlas is all the crazy, dazzling effort it goes to, all the Mach-5, V-8 filmmaking talent it harnesses, to make some ultimately rather obvious points about evergreens such as love, evil, freedom, art—the highs and lows of human nature, the stuff the species is stuck with, for better or worse, profound or boring…
So please don’t be intimidated by Cloud Atlas, which was written and directed by the Wachowski siblings, Andy and Lena, who previously made the Matrix movies and Speed Racer, and Tom Tykwer, best known for Run Lola Run. Some reviews might make the new film sound like work, but it’s not—it’s fun!.. The film ends on an upbeat, even hokey note, or at least it wants you to think it does. The scenes sell themselves that way amid soaring score and twinkles in Hanks’s and Berry’s eyes, although there’s a grim irony in the ending, too, which I won’t give away and which I’m also not sure the filmmakers are aware of—well, of course they’re aware of it; I mean I’m not sure they see it as grim. Hokey-grim: another interesting fusion. Let’s discuss once you’ve seen the film… Their proximity on the release schedule, and in Oscar speculation, along with their similarly high butt-sit factor, leads me to think of Cloud Atlas as the polar opposite of The Master, in that the former wears a big heart on its sleeve while the latter, at least for me, was frustratingly opaque. But both are bravura feats of filmmaking and, however long, I was sorry to see the credits roll on both. I will pay Cloud Atlas what I think of as the ultimate compliment: I will eagerly seek out the four- or five-hour director’s-cut version, which I’m sure exists, when it arrives on DVD or shows up at Film Forum.”

[CJ: Re the film’s ending: yeah, I initially wondered the same thing, but after a second viewing, I’m more certain the filmmakers knew exactly what they were doing, and meant the superficially happy ending to have a bitter sting. I’ve often accused the Wachowskis of having an overly romantic view of the world… some comments about 2001 (one of my favorite films and theirs) at the October 6 preview screening made me think perhaps they saw only Arthur C Clarke’s “cosmic optimism” in the film, but not enough Kubrickian darkness. I even mentioned to my boyfriend that any notion 2001 is purely about the hope for human evolution or progress should be balanced by observing what the first proto-hominids in the film do the moment the symbolic black slab shows up: use their newly discovered “tools” to brain other animals, then one another. But then I noticed a subtle but direct homage to 2001 during my second viewing of Cloud Atlas: during the scene where Autua is being whipped, he’s lashed to a very black-slab-like totem, and his fellow villagers are intoning an ominous hum that sounds exactly like the one heard in 2001.

In both the novel and film versions of Cloud Atlas, the earth is in a perilous state at the end, and only a small remnant of humanity persists. Zachry has survived to old age and is telling youngsters (presumably his grandchildren) his story. His vantage point is somewhat different in the film, but in either case, he’s been forced to abandon his village and has lost much of his family and tribe. I personally found the film version cornier on the surface, but sadder beneath.  The Wachowskis based the entire premise of The Matrix trilogy on the notion that humanity had destroyed most of the earth is a blinkered, single-minded quest to destroy the Machines, who were initially only seeking fair treatment. So… I think they know what the ending of their own movie means this time too. On a dark-humored note, the film’s ending also reminded me of George Carlin’s assertion that this planet would one day “shake us off like a bad case of fleas”. Also: Monty Python’s “Galaxy Song”. ] 😉

Dr Know, Bullseye or Misfire: “I have to say everyone on board is top-notch, and even though I was able to pick many of the key players out in their various guises, there were some instances where they also slipped past. I didn’t realize I was watching the same actor in certain roles until the end credits rolled and got me up to speed. Well done… Cloud Atlas is a thriller, a love story, a sci-fi action movie, a coming-of-age story, a Greek tragedy, a murder mystery, a commentary on sexuality and race, and so on and so on and so on…If you truly love cinema as an art form this movie will open up plenty a debate between you and your film-nerd friends. This is a movie that will astound, captivate, enthrall, baffle, sadden and frustrate so many. It defies description and skewers conventions at every turn. No amount of writing I do in this tin space can do it justice (the reason why this review is shorter than usual). There will be some that love it, there will be some that detest it. It all depends on what kind of baggage you bring to an indescribable movie like this.”

Matt Balk, Cinema Snob: “Cloud Atlas is one of the most polarizing movies I’ve seen in a long time, certainly the most polarizing “mainstream” movie made in the US in the last half decade or so.  By “polarizing”, I mean that you will either A) almost certainly be fascinated by this movie, and grow to love it, or B) you will reject its premise by the halfway point and leave the theater demanding your $10 back.  I should let you know up front that personally, I fall into the former group. ..  One of your questions might be, is this a perfect movie? The answer is no. But is it a fascinating movie?  I would argue, yes… There are connections to be made (watch for the comet-shaped birthmark), but the viewer is asked to do a lot of the work; nothing is really spoon-fed for you.  Hell, I’m not even going to pretend I “understood” everything in Cloud Atlas, but I do want to see it again to experience it… The movie also uses this reincarnation concept to make some interesting choices (and potentially controversial ones) regarding race and gender.  Several of the lead characters switch gender and race throughout the movie, to varying effectiveness.  Some people may have a problem with the thought of Hugh Grant or Hugo Weaving playing a person of Asian decent (complete with makeup), while others might find it hard to see Halle Barry playing a Jewish-european or Ben Whishaw as a woman.  Most of the time the makeup works; most of the time.  And most of the actors are up to the task of playing multiple roles.  Is it offensive, to see white actors playing those of Asian descent, and vice-versa?  Normally I would say yes, but because the characters are not playing it up for laughs, and instead are (what I interpret as) representing souls, I did not find it problematic… [D]espite its flaws, I enjoyed the hell out of watching this movie, and really want to see it again. My Grade:  A-”

Mark Dujsik, Mark Reviews Movies: “Cloud Atlas is enormously ambitious in scope, bizarrely experimental in execution, and equal parts straightforward and confounding in its ideas.  The film imagines itself to be a hopeful fable about the significance of any given individual for the furtherance of humanity’s ideal.  Pragmatically, though, that idealism is overshadowed by the cyclical nature of its six-part narrative.  Here are stories about our tendency to kill, to oppress, and to conquer…. This is dense material, and the film is actually at its strongest when it engages us in hand-holding.  The scientist’s monologue, which arrives at a significant turning point in all six stories, and a climactic speech about the nature of freedom lend the stories an emotional impact that is often lost amidst the constant back-and-forth-and-further-back-and-even-further-forward narrative… It is easy to become disoriented as to the overarching purpose of Cloud Atlas as it offers stories of varying levels of interest and significance.  The film’s technical achievements, though, are substantial enough to forgive the film its shortcomings.”

James Jay Edwards, Film Fracture: “Cloud Atlas requires a bit of a commitment from the viewer. Clocking in at just less than three hours, it is not only long but heavy, deep and complex. It requires attention, and a casual audience may find themselves lost between the expansive ensemble of characters and the extensive time periods involved. But, for those with some patience and an appreciation for beautiful filmmaking, Cloud Atlas is a very rewarding experience… The cast in Cloud Atlas is remarkable. Not only does every performer play multiple roles (most of the big names have parts, albeit small, in all six segments), but the differences in genre and time period test each actors skills to the fullest. For example, Halle Berry plays two African American characters, two Indian characters and one rich Jewish character. Hugo Weaving even plays a Nurse Ratched-esque woman in the convalescent home segment. For many of the roles the actors are caked in makeup and prosthetics as well; Hugh Grant is in all six parts and is only recognizable as himself in the 1970s blacksploitation one. The entire ensemble has a field day, but Tom Hanks really stands out. His roles range from the lead in the post-apocalyptic section to a short cameo in the modern day area, and he is great whenever he is onscreen. Hanks and Berry are even forced to fumble through some seriously questionable dialect in the post-apocalyptic tale, and they not only pull it off, they own it. Even with tons of costuming and makeup hiding their faces and bodies, the experienced cast of Cloud Atlas manages to turn in memorable performances that add to the breathtaking imagery… The best way to describe Cloud Atlas is visually stunning. Every little detail of the filmmaking is meticulous, from the locations and sets to the special effects and makeup…  As different as the filmic choices are, everything still looks like it belongs in the same movie. The directors undertook a huge task with Cloud Atlas, but the end product succeeds admirably at what it sets out to do – it is an amazing, genre-bending example of modern filmmaking.”

Matthew Newlin, California Literary Review: “Watching Cloud Atlas, a magnificently orchestrated work of cinema, is like watching one of your most vivid dreams (the kind that is both ludicrously fantastical and disturbingly real) being projected on an enormous screen in front of you. Like the surreal adventures we have when we go to sleep at night, Cloud Atlas introduces the viewer to worlds they would have otherwise never imagined…  Far from a gimmick of indulgence on the part of the directors, the result of this approach is a sense that the audience has been a part of the story the whole time, just like the characters themselves. The characters (or their souls, more accurately) are experiencing the same struggles, conflicts, happiness and anger again and again and we the audience begin to sense what this seemingly endless cycle may feel like… One of the most vocal criticisms of Cloud Atlas will undoubtedly be the half dozen or so characters played by many of the lead actors. Detractors will likely try to argue that the film becomes a game of ‘spot the actor’ given the heavy makeup and prosthetics used to transform the actors from one incarnation into the next. This wasn’t an oversight on the part of the Wachowskis and Tykwer. The repetition of actors gives even greater depth to the sense of ‘Hey, haven’t I seen you somewhere before?’ that many of the characters experience throughout the film…Fans of the Wachowskis and Tykwer may leave feeling disappointed or deflated due to fact that Cloud Atlas is more about storytelling than spectacle…  While some of the actors are more adept at transformation than others, the performances overall are terrific…  Cloud Atlas is a cinematic experience unlike any other. The Wachowskis and Tykwer have delivered a film more ambitious than any of their other work with themes much more personal than they have, independently, explored before. It is a thrilling journey and an example of how magical cinema can be.”

Martin Lieberman, Martin’s Musings: “The stories aren’t told in chronological order. Rather, we bounce between them at a rapid pace like a pinball, marveling time and again at the parallels…Subtle it’s not: The connectedness theme is illustrated in each vignette by a protagonist who stands up to or fights against a controlling figure, showing the struggle to be free is one we will always face. Some characters in each story have a shooting-star birthmark. And we’re told multiple times that we are all but a drop in the ocean of life, or ‘our lives are not our own,’or ‘death opens another door.’…Most significant to the theme is that the same actors play roles in each vignette — sometimes roles that mix up genders, race, age, and skin color. It’s a total stunt that’s made possible with the help of some talented makeup artists, but it works as a way to illustrate that part of us carries on from one generation to the next… The Wachowskis and Twyker are visual masters, and each of the film’s six segments has its own unique look, feel, and tone… Kudos to the editing team for somehow making it all fit together… I respect the ambition of Cloud Atlas, and I did actually enjoy most of it. So I’m going to give the film a B.”

Tim Grierson, Deadspin: “I’m not a big fan of ensemble, “everything is, like, connected, man” movies, but to my mind Cloud Atlas trumps Crash, Babel, and the like because of how giddy and unbridled it is in its ambition and scope. Where other movies of this kind would ponderously cart out each dramatic irony or narrative echo with the seriousness of a sermon, Cloud Atlas is actually pretty light on its feet. There’s no question the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer are deeply invested in the notion that our lives are intertwined in mysterious, cosmic ways, but they approach that idea utilizing a breezy pop vernacular. Like The Matrix and Run Lola Run, Cloud Atlas takes Weighty Themes and gives them a crowd-pleasing spin… That’s why the movie’s mix of genres is so lively and, at the same time, profound in a playful way…  When you get right down to it, Cloud Atlas is very much about the act of storytelling itself, and while not all the segments work, not one of them plays out in a predictable way—they bounce around with a sense of limitless possibility, as if their tellers are making them up as they go along…  In that spirit, I found the more questionable choices—like having Halle Berry in whiteface or Hugo Weaving made up as a woman—kind of a hoot. You complain that the movie ‘veers most dangerously toward camp’ at these moments, but I think that’s just one more tone in the film, another color on the filmmakers’ palette. For all of its supposed seriousness, Cloud Atlas is actually pretty damn fun… I think this is a pretty dazzling-looking movie. If the stories didn’t work for you, I can imagine this won’t make much of a difference, but Cloud Atlas is quite often simply stunning as a piece of visual storytelling… Cloud Atlas is one of those rare movies whose inconsistencies didn’t bother me that badly because its confident audacity smooths over most of those problems. A few iffy effects shots, silly wigs, and some awkward stabs at comedy don’t derail a movie that’s this brazenly alive and free. It’s easy to let its flaws get to you, but I think it’s far more rewarding if you accept them as part of the rich tapestry of this whole crazy endeavor. I’m glad I did.”

Louie Coruzzollo, Chasing Cinema: “Cloud Atlas presents several, different set periods that are visually stunning. Wether it is in futuristic Korea, or in the post-apocalyptic Hawaii the visuals are wonderful. The filmmakers create a fantastic universe that is unique, beautiful, loving, cold, and bold. Along with the great scenery the special effects are just as astonishing. This easily allows the audience to get lost in their universe, and to be swept away for three hours. Accompanying the visual feast is a magnificent score that sets up the film extremely well. The score is soothing, mysterious, sad, and courageous all in the right places. These two qualities are easily the best part of the film, and makes Cloud Atlas a unique experience in the theaters…Cloud Atlas boasts a great cast, and allows many of the cast members to tackle several different characters…  While this is a very intriguing feat that the group accomplishes; the acting in this movie does not blow you away. Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw and James D’Arcy are the ones that stand out, but the rest just blend in together.. The major flaw of Cloud Atlas lies with the construction of the stories. The magnitude of the stories are very strong, and are deserving of their own film. By making the stories connect and interweaving, the stories’ affect on the audience is diminished. ..[Also], a great movie should show us their message, and not tell us through repetitive dialogue… Cloud Atlas is still a unique experience that can be appreciated by some. This is not your average Friday night popcorn flick. This movie will make you think throughout, and expects the audience to be collectively intelligent.”

Alyn Darnay, I Rate Films: “I’m sure this film will find its critics, but for me it’s definitely one of the best films of the year. It has also set the record as the most expensive independently financed feature of all time, at approximately $100 million, and it shows everywhere you look on the screen. I believe that Tykwer and the Wachowskis have created a true work of filmic art, that they dared to take big chances, and have fashioned a true cinematic eye-opening blockbuster of a movie. Its grand style, in both scope and ambition, will challenge you as it entertains you and transports you to other times and places. It’s a true movie going experience not to be missed…A word of caution, walk into this film with an open mind and try not to read or listen to too much about it beforehand. A good deal of the fun of the film is in your discovery of its themes and characters. To miss that, is to miss much of the fun.” (4.5 out of 5 Stars)

Fast Food Flix: “Cloud Atlas is the first film I’ve seen in a long time to leave me urging for an immediate second viewing. That’s saying something about The Wachowski Siblings’ and Tom Tykwer’s latest cinematic (and enigmatic) achievement. It’s an ambitious feat to say the least, and anyone who says otherwise should be escorted to Here Comes the Boom instead. Maybe then audiences can be spoon-fed watered-down themes of courage and determination….  The themes and principles explored in Cloud Atlas are too complex and abundant to be analyzed in this review, but I can assure you you’ll leave the theater pocketing a few quotes to later post on your Facebook status… Notwithstanding, the performances here are all relatively strong as we get to see our favorite stars showing off their chops and acting in multiple roles.. Cloud Atlas is a perfect example of classic cinema; it’s a film that exhibits all of the elements in a production coalescing harmoniously to create a truly unique experience. Come award season, it will get the nod in a variety of departments, most notably for Make-up, Editing, and Best Adapted Screenplay…I don’t know how many people will actually enjoy this cinematic experience; Cloud Atlas definitely elicits a mental workout—but I reckon many people will cherish it as something truly original and unparalleled to anything they’ve ever seen.”

Cloud Atlas Post-Release Review Roundup Part 1

Note: this is an archived entry. Some links might not still work, but I have tried to ensure scan and video embeds are still in place. If any linked material is unavailable, please let me know and I’ll attempt to find a copy in my personal archives.

[Note: this is the content edited from the prior post… I'll try to add some photos later when I have more time]

New Reviews Roundup (in no particular order):

Owen Gliebman, Entertainment Weekly: "Cloud Atlas is certainly out to be a ''visionary'' mindbender, but the film's secret is that it's a nimbly entertaining and light-on-its-feet Hollywood contraption, with the actors cast in multiple roles as if playing a game of dress-up… Cloud Atlas has been made with a channel-zapper consciousness — an invitation to go wherever the Wachowskis and Tykwer want to take you, with the trust that they know just what they're doing. Each story writes its own rules and unfolds in its own madly detailed, self-contained world… The movie's Big Idea is to wake us up to the ways that we're all linked through time: The dream of one person passes to the next, finally erupting in revolution. What I liked about Cloud Atlas is that it brings this rather banal revelation to life through an inspired fusion of form and content. The stories bounce off one another in devious and intricate ways. And the multiple-role casting, and bravura makeup that renders it possible (not just flipped genders but switched races as well), is more than a gimmick — it's like a burlesque of identity…. Cloud Atlas is like a gonzo miniseries that, at times, seems to be cramming the entire history of Hollywood genre films into one multi-tentacled parable of freedom and authoritarian control…  I would never call Cloud Atlas profound — it's more like a pulpy middlebrow head trip — but the hook of the movie is that Andy and Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer so clearly meant everything that they put in it. B+"

[CJ– I guess Gleibman has a different definition of 'profound' than I do. You can say the themes of Cloud Atlas are overstated or that you didn't find them well-realized, but they are, in fact, profound. The film does blend "elephant art" and "termite art" (high and low) methodologies. Those who say it's all surface haven't been paying attention.]

Susan Tunis, In One Eye, Out The Other: "[Cloud Atlas] was said by many to be unfilmable, and if asked, I would have agreed… And I would have been so very wrong. What Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, and Tom Tykwer have achieved is nothing short of astounding. I'll cut to the chase and tell you that I LOVED this film. It will surely be my favorite of the year….  What these three writer/directors–apparently with limited input from Mr. Mitchell–did with this screenplay is extraordinary. It is brilliant…. I'm sure there were minor changes [from the novel], but nothing at all that made me cry foul. No, as I watched the film, memories of the novel came flooding back in the most wonderful way. These filmmakers did a magnificent job of realizing the world(s) that David Mitchell had created."

Terence Johnson, Awards Circuit: "Cloud Atlas, the mesmerizing film from the Wachowski siblings and Tom Tykwer, is a cinematic force of nature that jolts you out of your reverie and gives you reaffirmation of what it means to live. Tracking six  storylines that span from the 1850s to sometime around 2250, this film effortlessly blends the separate, yet interconnected parts, into an incredible whole…. There’s so much to enjoy about Cloud Atlas, thanks in large part to the narrative that forces you to pay attention. Thankfully the themes of the movie make it simple for you to follow along, even when you crosscut between eras. It’s a feat that this film can use both non-traditional framing, extensive voice over, and interrogation scenes and still be engaging and watchable. Even though the film throws virtually every framing device at you, the story hums along and the spectacle feels earned, due to the attention of detail put into the script… The film is edited and connected so flawlessly, it’s no wonder Warner Bros. didn’t harp on the contractual running time….   Of course the biggest selling point of the film is the actors playing different roles. It’s always thrilling to see actors stretching themselves and many of the joys in this movie are derived from seeing the actors in weird makeup or trying to spot the actors in different eras. Sometimes they are playing real people, sometimes they show up in photographs but they’re present at all times, allowing for the theme of inter-connectivity to really sink in. This is truly an ensemble picture, with the “weakest” links being the two lead performances…. The standouts were Ben Whishaw and Doona Bae. If Lars von Trier ever decided to turn his gaze to men or McQueen need another actor to put through the ringer, Whishaw should be first in line because no one plays a tortured tragic soul like him. He’s mastered the art of playing characters who find joy only to have bad things happen, but Whishaw is so damn charismatic that even when his story in Cloud Atlas reaches its tragic crescendo you never pity him.  Doona Bae’s performance is one that surprised me and gave me the greatest thrill to watch…  . By the time this film ended, I was a mess of emotions, and I actually cried on the way home, something I’ve never done before, during or after watching a movie. After spending almost three hours concentrating on figuring out the narrative and trying to spot the actors, my guard had been torn down and in its place was an emotional conundrum that I couldn’t shake. It wasn’t the tragedy that befalls a few characters or the euphoric highs some of them reach, but every emotion thrown together. I’ve never felt so alive, so in touch with humanity than I did after finishing this movie. Cloud Atlas that type of film, one that gets under your skin, breaks down your walls and sends your spirit soaring to the heavens reaffirming what it really means to have lived a life on earth and how we are all connected in some way, shape or form….I’m not necessarily sure what possessed the Wachowski siblings and Tom Tykwer to make this movie, but I’m glad they did." (4 Stars)

Joey Madgison, Awards Circuit: "There are moments in ‘Cloud Atlas’ that frankly are sure to blow your mind and take your breath away. There are also moments that will make you scratch or shake your head….  It’s definitely a flawed film, but the sheer gusto of it all helps to power it through. I had a few more issues than I would have liked to have had with the flick, but when it opens on Friday I expect a fair amount of people to be completely stunned. I’d even wager that someone’s new favorite film of all time is contained within. I can also see plenty of people absolutely hating it…. ‘Cloud Atlas’ is the type of film that rewards viewers on a scale that depends on how much you put into it. If you go see it this weekend with an open mind and an open heart, you’re much more likely to enjoy it than if you go in stubborn. I wasn’t bowled over, but I really appreciate what everyone was able to pull off here. Some will love it, some will hate, just like the critical word so far, and in this case I’m right in the middle of things. My thumb is up, but it’s not one of my absolute favorites of the year. I’m glad I saw it and really am overjoyed that movies like this are being made." (3 Stars)

Drew Taylor, Moviefone: "It's Unlike Anything You've Ever Seen Before…To achieve the replication of the book's style and form, the directors decided to have the same handful of actors (among them Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Ben Whishaw, Susan Sarandon, Jim Broadbent and Hugh Grant) play roles in each section… The movie also cuts around between the various stories throughout the whole running time, never settling in one scenario for more than a few minutes at a time. The effect is something like the last 30 minutes of "Inception" (with multiple storylines existing on different planes of dreamlike reality), except stretched across a genuinely epic three-hour run-time. This structure does much to emphasize the movie's views on the elasticity of time and space and the recurring theme of reincarnation. The scope and scale of 'Cloud Atlas' are unbelievable, and it's a genuine feat to have the directors' corral their individual visions into a (mostly) cohesive whole… I had actually read Mitchell's novel. If you haven't, then whole swaths of 'Cloud Atlas,' no matter how hard the directors work to underline the movie's thematic concerns, will probably come across as a barely comprehensible muddle. (It's not.) Things become clearer after the movie's first hour, but that's a lot of work to put in just to keep up with the basic narrative (there was at least one walkout at the screening we attended). "Cloud Atlas" is definitely worth the effort, though… Despite all of the cutting around, the sheer beauty and romantic grandeur of "Cloud Atlas" persists. At times, each separate moment is so gorgeous and earnest that you get choked up. When these moments start to bump up against each other, cascading through time and space, is when the movie really hits its stride and becomes a singularly powerful piece of pop art, a kind of glittery cubist fairy tale… Actors are constantly shapeshifting, changing scale and size, gender and ethnicity. Sometimes the effects are clunky but you're never truly taken out of the story (which is priority number one), and for the most part, it adds another layer of gentle psychedelic on top of an already surreal world."

Sean P Means, Salt Lake City Tribune: " It was inevitable, perhaps, that the one-of-a-kind drama "Cloud Atlas" would fall short of its ambitions, but only because those ambitions are so cosmically and insanely grand…The writing-directing team of Andy and Lana Wachowski ("The Matrix" trilogy) and Tom Tykwer ("Run Lola Run") gambles big in adapting David Mitchell’s novel, an epic story of reincarnated souls covering six settings across five centuries and deploying an ensemble cast tackling multiple roles. The results are strangely moving and endlessly fascinating… Not all the transitions are seamless over the movie’s nearly three hours, and recasting the same actors sometimes comes off not as cosmic commentary but as self-referential gimmick. But the movie’s startling vision opens up wondrous possibilities of connectedness, of one life’s choices influencing the next. 'From womb to tomb, we are bound to others, past and present,' Sonmi-451 declares — and "Cloud Atlas" maps out that journey with powerful clarity."

Sara Michelle Fetters, Movie Freak: "For my part, I was hypnotized by Cloud Atlas, was held spellbound from the glorious opening moments all the way to the futuristic coda. I loved what the Wachowskis and Tykwer were attempting, found myself greedily lapping up the majority of their ideas and themes with overzealous glee. Does it always work? Do all of the threads tie back together in a wholly satisfying manner? No, not at all, but even when the filmmakers get lost in their own overzealous tendencies the movie still remains a towering humanistic marvel unlike anything else I’ve seen this year, and I have a feeling the more I ponder it the more this particular motion picture has the potential to become something of an enduring favorite worthy of significantly more contemplation… I really do think that the themes and ideas presented are not particularly difficult to comprehend, while at the same time also certain that it’s better to do so on your own without my interference. This is the kind of movie that is best experienced knowing as few of the major intricacies as possible, discovery of the nuances part of the joy of this particular  symphonic visual journey… Cloud Atlas is a marvel, of that I feel there is no doubt, and as such my hope is that potential viewers in the here and now take a chance on it and don’t leave it for future generations to discover decades down the road."

Kelly Vance, East Bay Express: "Don't worry about those six competing novella-size stories getting in each others' way. There's nothing here the mosaic-wise modern media audience can't handle. The best strategy is to relax, drink in the images, put your brain on cruise control (while still listening to the characters), and let the movie sort itself out… Instead of presenting each story as a discrete nugget, the co-directors interweave the events in a long, careful crescendo of crosscutting. It takes some getting used to, but we're shepherded by the recurrence of actors as well as by the continuity of Mitchell's persistent theme: rebellion against tyranny… As the stories unfold, Bae and Sturgess play multiple roles, as do Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, Ben Whishaw, David Gyasi, and James D'Arcy in the large cast. Hugo Weaving, nemesis of the Wachowskis' Matrix movies, sticks to villainous parts throughout (his Nurse Noakes is a wonderfully hideous piece of work), but Hanks, Broadbent, and Grant all cross back and forth from protagonist to antagonist, with elaborate changes of makeup. [CJ– actually, Hugh Grants characters are all arguably as bad as Weaving's– in some cases worse.] And yet what we can only call the moral thrust of Cloud Atlas remains consistent. Mitchell's novel plays to the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's strengths as creators of characters in conflict with oppressive hierarchies.. Metaphors rebound on each other. The novel's lustrous prose survives in abridged form. The problem with most sci-fi is its limited ambition. Mitchell's fiction, however, has real substance and a beauty of language to go with its universal humanity."

Ry The Movie Guy: "We are treated to many different genres, from drama to comedy to mystery to sci-fi; this is truly an epic film. Although there are some clear crossovers between the storylines, for the most part they stand alone. It is the themes that crossover and connect in different ways. I found the cinematography to be downright gorgeous at points. I also loved the score, it is big, beautiful, and connects with the emotions of the movie perfectly. The Wachowskis explained in a Q&A after the screening how they adopted this complex book from David Mitchell to the big screen. One of the big changes was interlacing all the storylines together, whereas the book sticks with 1 storyline at a time. I have to compliment them on how well the movie flowed; it was easy to follow and kept each storyline on the same pace. This is not a film that has a definitive conclusion, instead it offers big ideas and grand themes that you can reflect on for hours after the screening. See it in the theater, open your mind, and enjoy."

Kevin Taft, Edge on the Net: "It is such a rich narrative of characters, situations, and ideas that to understand it in one viewing is impossible…And for some, this might be too trying a challenge. They might get confused. Others might be bored because they simply don’t understand how six stories that range from the 1800’s to the future are connected. And I understand. I get why people would give up early on and check out. But I also understand that even though the final ten minutes are both satisfying and confounding, others will leave the film dazzled by its ideas and actively begin to work out the complicated narrative threads and how they all fit together… It is a stunning achievement and whether you totally understand the film or not, you can’t deny the artistry that graces the screen….To explain the plot of 'Cloud Atlas' is like explaining the course of life. You can’t. You can just mention the players and some key moments, but how that spills one over the other is what is so compelling…  At times, it can be frustrating jumping from story to story, sometimes minute by minute, but this also keeps the film from becoming plodding. The stunning score by Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek, and Rienhold Heil is perfectly utilized and runs almost continuously and hypnotically making the entire film a tone poem of our lives. Production design by Hugh Bateup and Uli Hanisch is downright astounding. The detail in every sequence and time period is so flawless and so special, you could take a class just on that aspect alone. Everything from the editing to the art direction to the cinematography is magnificent. As for the actors, they excel in so many different ways it’s almost impossible to delineate the myriad of characters and performances."

Joan Schwartz, LA Movie Reviews Examiner: "Cloud Atlas' is a film that some people, like myself, will find absolutely brilliant… Some critics have already called it prententious as well as an indulgent mess. All these varying opinions simply prove one thing…When it comes to movies, art, music, culture…it's all so subjectective. Therefore, my suggestion, is that you go see this film and judge for yourself… There are six stories and the actors including Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Jim Broadbent, James D' Arcy, Hugh Grant, David Gyasi, Hugo Weaving, Ben Winshaw and the memorizing Doona Baein, play six different characters and they are all extraordinary, transcending genders in some cases… I could write pages about this complex, intriguing, fascinating film, but then why would you go see it…And see it, you must." (4 out of 5 Stars)

Landon McDonald, University Daily Kansan: "'Cloud Atlas' is a film driven by an ambition that borders on euphoria, a sprawling sci-fi sextet that bridges the gap between science and spiritualism by exalting the divine sparkplug that is the human heart….  If you feel like you should be taking notes, it’s not a bad idea. “Cloud Atlas” is the kind of movie that could easily dissolve into a pretentious migraine if it made the mistake of being too overwrought or self-serious. Thankfully the film manages to balance its weightier themes with moments of bracing humor, especially during a comic interlude where Broadbent, playing an addle-brained literary agent, is tricked into a nursing home by his brother. This section, which combines elements of 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest' and 'The Great Escape,' also features the unforgettable sight of Hugo Weaving essentially playing Nurse Ratched in drag… Although the makeup quality varies from transformative to ridiculous, the performances in 'Cloud Atlas' are uniformly excellent. ..  Broadbent is the film’s trump card, an actor who can shift from pompous to befuddled at the drop of a hat…'Cloud Atlas' represents a return to a kind of filmmaking long ignored by Hollywood: the spectacle of substance…  In an ideal world, audiences experiencing blockbuster malaise would be flocking in droves to see this. Creative independence comes at a heavy price these days, and efforts like this should be rewarded. This is a singular cinematic achievement, one that will be enjoyed and analyzed for years to come."

Aaron Shore, That Movies We Love: "Adapting 'Cloud Atlas' would be a test no brave filmmaker I feel could ever endure. Yet, some how the Wachowski’s & Tykwer found a way to bring this epic together. Perhaps the cohesive element was their only weakness, since it’s a film that’s extremely hard to follow along, even if you’ve read the book. But, the acting from the assorted cast is at high-level achievement, the stories are as strong as the book itself, and the final pay-off is one that will leave a crowd cheering and applauding… As you can see, the description for this film is, lack for a better word, complex. And I wouldn’t be surprised at all that the structure for the film may intimidate some folks. The early screening I was attending, nearly 20 people left during the middle of the movie, because it was just too damn smart for them. Here they thought they were getting a Halle Berry science-fiction movie, when that’s not the case at all. You’ve got an in-depth multi-character study lecture of the greatest kind, ranging all over the place. You’ve got a movie that’s several different genres rolled into one package… If you are up for the challenge,'Cloud Atlas' is a monumental movie that will leave a great emotional impact on you. Even if the end of the film confuses you, you cannot help be feel an overwhelming sense of sheer ecstasy it injects into you. Some may call it pretentious, others will say that the movie is self-indulgent; honestly you can say that about any piece of art, not just film. If you’re not willing to open your mind, that’s fine, but the movie is accomplishing an epic story focusing on themes of love, power, life, and death. The splendor of the imagery here should be acknowledged. It’s not very easy to have three directors working, collaborating on making a film that has a similar style, especially an esthetic one. I beg of you people to see this movie, not only is it a grand experience at the movies, but it’s by far one of the quickest three hours I’ve seen in quite sometime, and that right there is a major accomplishment."

Norm Schrager, Meet Me In The Lobby: "If a film’s entertainment value were measured by volume of storylines, variety of styles and frequency of timeline trekking, Cloud Atlas would be entertaining beyond definition. But it takes more than bursting-at-the-seams narrative to make a great movie; good thing, then, that directors Tom Tykwer and The Wachowskis have created a film that transcends its heft, adapting David Mitchell’s mega-novel into a brisk, cinematic showcase of excitement and surprises… Though the lead actors inhabit a multitude of stories — Tom Hanks and Halle Berry show up in six roles each — the screenplay doesn’t rely on typical character crossover time-travel tricks. Instead, the connective tissue within the Cloud Atlas world tends to exist in small details you might miss if you blink, with the universe moving along as one giant, ongoing parallel edit… If there’s a particular story that doesn’t hold your attention, then just hang on… With so many pieces and parts flying around, it’s tough to figure out where Cloud Atlas begins and ends, and how to identify which longer scenes are superfluous, and which shorter tastes are truly indispensable. But it shouldn’t matter. It’s far better to just follow it all along as it comes, heeding the suggestion of Hanks’ sputtering, post-apocalyptic Zachry, who forms the film’s bookends by saying in old-man pidgin: “Listen close, and I’ll yarn you…” And darned well, I’d say."

A.O. Scott, The New York Times: "Maybe the achievement of “Cloud Atlas” should be quantified rather than judged in more conventional, qualitative ways. This is by no means the best movie of the year, but it may be the most movie you can get for the price of a single ticket. It blends farce, suspense, science fiction, melodrama and quite a bit more, not into an approximation of Mr. Mitchell’s graceful and virtuosic pastiche, but rather into an unruly grab bag of styles, effects and emotions held together, just barely, by a combination of outlandish daring and humble sincerity. Together the filmmakers try so hard to give you everything — the secrets of the universe and the human heart; action, laughs and romance; tragedy and mystery — that you may wind up feeling both grateful and disappointed… Mr. Tykwer and the Wachowskis — abetted by the heroic editing of Alexander Berner — have abandoned [Mitchell's] symmetrical literary design, opting for the more cinematically manageable technique of crosscutting. The narrative strands are woven together, elegantly plaited and quilted at some points, tangled and snarled in others. Connective tissue is supplied by music (composed by Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek and Mr. Tykwer), by voice-overs and visual echoes, and also by the reappearance of the same actors in elaborate but nonetheless transparent disguises. [Hugo] Weaving, for example, memorably pops up as a devil, a Victorian capitalist, a sadistic female nurse, a corporate-totalitarian bureaucrat and a hit man… There is, in any case, a lot of acting here. It is delivered by the bushel, by the truckload, by the schooner, and the quality varies… Mr. Broadbent is, as ever, delightful, and Ben Whishaw is perfect as the witty and passionate Frobisher. Hugh Grant indulges in some sly, vulgar villainy, with impressive prosthetic teeth, and Susan Sarandon floats through a few scenes trailing mists of love and weary wisdom. As Sonmi, the South Korean actress Doona Bae is a haunting, somber presence… Mr. Tykwer and the Wachowskis emphasize the spiritual rather than the political dimensions of Mr. Mitchell’s novel and at the same time make his meanings less elusive and more accessible. Perhaps too much so. "

Keith Phillips, The AV Club: " Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer take a different route to the same destinations as their source material, using the film medium to make dramatic and thematic connections in ways impossible on the page, rhyming story beats against one another and matching situations and visuals across timelines. A blink and a cut, and the distance between the South Seas of the near past and the far future disappears. A matched composition, and the parallels between a Korean dystopia and an act of corporate malfeasance in ’70s San Francisco are made…It’s a beyond-ambitious undertaking, and at times an unwieldy one…To draw their narratives tighter, the filmmakers cast the same actors in different roles in each segment. To put it mildly, not everyone is Alec Guinness, nor does all the aging makeup rival Dustin Hoffman’s in Little Big Man…   These are real, and often significant flaws, but they’re flaws on the surface of a film more concerned with its depths…  The Wachowskis used science fiction to explore that same notion in The Matrix and its sequels, and in at least one respect, Cloud Atlas resembles those films (particularly the first, coherent one), becoming a stirring celebration of those who defy authority. It’s a movie-length rejection of oppression that values freedom as an absolute good, whatever its cost. In Cloud Atlas, science fiction is just one of the film’s modes, though it’s one of its most effective. Bae’s scenes in the Seoul of the near-future suggest the directors might easily have made another crowd-pleasing blockbuster as influential to this current decade as The Matrix was to the last. Yet as mind-blowing as that film might have been, it necessarily would have been less ambitious than the film at hand. Cloud Atlas’ smooshing of Nietzschean eternal recurrence with an Eastern notion of souls striving to improve over many lives is New Age mush as metaphysics, but works wonderfully as metaphor. ..t Cloud Atlas is the sort of work where the big picture matters more than the details. It’s an imperfect film of great daring and tremendous humanity, a work of many stories, but a singular achievement. (B)

Gary Dowell, Lakewood/East Dallas Advocate: "Whereas the novel used a sort of nesting doll structure to connect the episodes, the film version relies on that uniquely cinematic tool of cross-cutting between them. It also goes a step further in uniting them by casting its lead actors in multiple roles (sometimes as many as half-dozen), often requiring them (via some impressive makeup work) to perform outside their age, race, gender, and sometimes all of the above, with Hanks, Hugh Grant, and Hugo Weaving giving some especially chameleonic performances. (Be sure to stay for the closing credits, which provide some surprising unmaskings.)…  It’s the sort of thing that is easily dismissed as pretentious or self-indulgent, and it certainly has its flaws; but to focus solely on them  would mean dismissing Cloud Atlas too quickly. The pieces of the mosaic story line don’t always fit perfectly, but it would feel contrived if they did, and bitching about the amount of patience and engagement it demands of its audience only reveals a lazy viewer….Tykwer and the Wachowskis have created a lavish and carefully orchestrated epic that few other filmmakers could pull off quite as well, one that is occasionally naive and messy, often unconventional and insightful, and always stirring and challenging."

Roger Ebert: "Even as I was watching "Cloud Atlas" the first time, I knew I would need to see it again. Now that I've seen it the second time, I know I'd like to see it a third time — but I no longer believe repeated viewings will solve anything. To borrow Churchill's description of Russia, 'it is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.' It fascinates in the moment. It's getting from one moment to the next that is tricky…. Surely this is one of the most ambitious films ever made. The little world of film criticism has been alive with interpretations of it, which propose to explain something that lies outside explanation. Any explanation of a work of art must be found in it, not taken to it. As a film teacher, I was always being told by students that a film by David Lynch, say, or Warner Herzog, was "a retelling of the life of Christ, say, or 'Moby Dick.' " My standard reply was: Maybe it's simply the telling of itself… I was never, ever bored by "Cloud Atlas." On my second viewing, I gave up any attempt to work out the logical connections between the segments, stories and characters. What was important was that I set my mind free to play. Clouds do not really look like camels or sailing ships or castles in the sky. They are simply a natural process at work. So too, perhaps, are our lives. Because we have minds and clouds do not, we desire freedom. That is the shape the characters in 'Cloud Atlas' take, and how they attempt to direct our thoughts. Any concrete, factual attempt to nail the film down to cold fact, to tell you what it 'means,' is as pointless as trying to build a clockwork orange….But, oh, what a film this is! And what a demonstration of the magical, dreamlike qualities of the cinema. And what an opportunity for the actors. And what a leap by the directors, who free themselves from the chains of narrative continuity. And then the wisdom of the old man staring into the flames makes perfect sense."

Sasha Stone, Awards Daily: (In compiling her own review roundup) "I disagree with [EW's Owen Gliebman] on the note of whether it’s profound or not. I think it absolutely has that ability but it depends on your own personal belief system. I think what it says about ethnic and sexual identity is quite profound. But ultimately, like The Master and Life of Pi, your experience with it will depend on what you bring to it. Who you are when you walk in the door. What you think changes over time. Life becomes something different once you pass 40 years old. It’s important to remember that, always, when judging works of art. They are most often, simply, our own reflection…Like Ebert, I want to see the film a third time. In fact, I’m desperate to see it a third time. Every major organ in my body is pleading with me to see it a third time. My brain is hungry to solve the mysteries. My heart wants to swoon again. My body, well, that goes without saying, what with Ben Wishaw, Jim Sturgess and James D’Arcy all cast in the film. I know, ew, gross…As far as Oscars go, right now I see an original score frontrunner. Other than that, I don’t know."

[CJ: I've enjoyed following this critic's "journey" with the film through several articles and podcasts. And I haven't talked to any female fans who aren't swooning over at least one of the film's actors. Bae Doona has impressed a lot of male fans, and Halle Berry… well, she's still Halle Berry. 😉 I didn't find the film as mystifying as some, maybe because I prefer narratives where every plotline and themes is neatly tied together in a big bow at the end. And the film's notion of higher truths is both something I instinctively agree with and am skeptical about. When Sonmi says "The truth is singular, it's variants are untruths"… that's true of scientific fact, but so much in our experience is open to interpretation. Including most things people label as capital T Truth in a philosophical sense. Whenever I hear a religious person (any religion) insist that their truth is the only one, I reflexively shake my head. But I've read rapturously positive reviews of this film by atheists, Catholics, Protestants, New Age/Gaia adherents, Jews… even a Muslim critic earlier today. Is this down to what Agent Smith would call "vagaries of perception", or, less cynically, finding in art what we each want/need to, or does it point to some higher truth we can all agree on, in spite of basic differences in philosophy? I remain somewhat skeptical, but it's something worth hoping for.]

Justin Craig, Fox News: "'Cloud Atlas'should not work. But it does. Lana Wachowski, Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer have wrangled David Mitchell’s beast of a story and delivered a haunting, full-bodied tour de force, and a completely unprecedented movie experience… Rich in symbolism and metaphor, “Cloud Atlas” is not a movie to view just once. It’s a film that is equally popcorn entertainment as it is an experience to dissect and discover again and again… The only way to become accustomed to the outlandish structure is to be immediately thrown into the story, which the filmmakers do right away. From the start, 'Cloud Atlas' bounces back and forth through each story, from the 1849 to an indeterminable post-apocalyptic future, all the while unraveling a fascinating, if not very confusing, story. If at first you find yourself confused, don’t worry, you’re not alone. 'Cloud Atlas' is almost three hours and it takes about forty-five minutes for the film to catch its rhythm, but once it does it is a vastly rewarding journey… Just about on every level, “Cloud Atlas” provides a plethora of material to absorb, and seeing the actors in their different guises is just one of the many breathtaking elements to devour…The production design is extravagant. “Cloud Atlas” looks like six completely different movies. We see 1970s San Francisco, a frightening futuristic Seoul, a primitive post-apocalyptic landscape and a sundrenched ship on a passage across the Pacific. Even though the settings are all over the map, the film still feels like one single entity. "

Alexis Neal, Patheos: "Every once in a while, you see movies advertised as offering ‘something for everyone,’ and it’s usually just so much marketing malarkey. Cloud Atlas is an exception… These six stories are interwoven into a single, unique (albeit rather long) film. It is truly one-of-a-kind… It is a joy to see skilled actors inhabit such a wide range of characters in a single work, particularly when they are clearly having such a good time with their roles (see, e.g., Tom Hanks as a thug-cum-author, and Hugh Grant, Hugo Weaving, and Jim Broadbent across the board). This was my first exposure to James D’Arcy, who brings a certain quiet wistfulness to each of his roles. I found myself liking those he likes simply because he likes them (even when those he likes are utterly unlikable). Jim Sturgess, another newish face to me, is serviceable and sympathetic as an ailing young lawyer aboard a ship in the mid-nineteenth century, but really shines as the selfless rebel captain who handles the terrified fabricant/clone with gentle kindness but who, as it turns out, also kicks a fair amount of totalitarian behind. And I swear Susan Sarandon gets more luminous with every passing year. But the real stars are arguably the makeup artists, who certainly earned their keep (and probably an Oscar nomination, if not an outright win), skillfully distinguishing the various characters played by each actor and often crossing ethnic lines with surprising success…Regardless of whether we agree with the means used to combat injustice—or even with the filmmakers’ characterization of certain events and actions as unjust—this experience of injustice makes an excellent theme, for it is common to all."

Brian Juergens, AfterElton: "There are a lot of things being said about Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer's film adaptation of Cloud Atlas: it's the film adaptation of an unfilmable novel; it's brilliant and visionary; it's a muddy mess; it means well, but it's too big for its britches…All of these things are, to some extent, true. The film – which uses a core cast of actors to tell a half-dozen wildly different tales spanning genres and centuries – is staggeringly ambitious. It is also wildly uneven, the warp and weft of the various interweaving plot threads being at times gripping, at others touching, and at others cold-sweat clunky to the point where you fear it might unravel completely. Not particularly surprising, given the sprawl that the three filmmakers have chosen to tackle: David Mitchell's source novel (which he himself considered "unfilmable") is a massive, meta feverdream that attempts to encapsulate humanity's overarching struggle for survival and advancement through a selection of carefully curated and vastly different tales… The result is dizzying, but effective – and aided by the fact that they've also opted to employ a small central company in all of the tales, each actor playing different roles spanning a number of ages, races, and genders… [W]hile some of the race- and gender-switched characters are undeniably odd looking, they are all fascinating in their own way. At times it's difficult to identify the actor within the character, which is of course partly the point…  In fact, the point of Cloud Atlas is so essential to understanding the film that it almost supercedes the film itself: this is not a movie, it is a manifesto. A gonzo, breathtaking, deeply humane declaration of the belief that all people – regardless of class, race, gender, age, sexuality, and more – are deserving of the same level of respect… Fortunately, despite being massively ambitious and boasting lofty ideals, Cloud Atlas is also genuinely entertaining and manages to nimbly genre-hop while striking the appropriate tone of each. The brilliance of the approach – telling a single story through six distinct genres and casts of characters – is that it meets us where we already live."

Dan Gentile, Austinist: "Cloud Atlas aims to capture these uncanny emotions in a multi-century spanning film that jumps between time periods and genres, connecting characters by their written remains in order to show that the paths they walk are always paved by those before them… In a conceit that can be visually off-putting, the actors (including Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, and Hugh Grant) subvert their typecasts by tackling multiple roles. Despite the sometimes awkward make-up, the decision to take them outside their comfort zones gives the film a sense of playfulness and anticipation, as you never know where each famous face will appear next. Hanks changes from goatee'd gangland novelist to charlatan slave trade doctor to post-apocalyptic shepherd. Halle Berry does a stint as the caucasian wife of a mid-century composer. Grant is the perpetual money-hungry villain, and Hugo Weaving plays evil incarnate in the form of both the devil and a domineering female nurse who steals every scene in which (s)he appears…

But none of these clever decisions would be effective if it weren't for the compelling nature of the stories…  Like Cloud Atlas's characters, the filmmakers' reckless choices pay off against all odds, and it's no coincidence that the result is a movie that's larger than the sum of its meticulously moving parts. They've succeeded in creating a film that's broader in scope and ambition than the novel, and although the truncated plot lines can sometimes feel half-finished, the more intimate details are just a bookstore away."

Mark Mohan, The Oregonian: "Ambitious doesn't begin to describe 'Cloud Atlas,' a head-trip of a movie that uses a large cast playing multiple characters to weave together six vaguely interlocked stories from the past, present and future, ultimately spinning an epic tale of human connectedness, eternal recurrence, and the endless battle between freedom and oppression. Plus it has laser gun fights, forbidden love, and a rollicking group breakout from a fascistic old folks' home. What more could anyone want?… It's a uniquely cinematic and very effective choice to have each actor play multiple roles, sometimes of varying age, ethnicity and gender…The overall effect is of a sort of, well, matrix of performers and roles. "

Chris Vognar, Dallas News: "The whole thing can be maddening and painfully broad. It can also be a great deal of fun in places, once you fall into the movie’s rhythm. Cloud Atlas was directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer, but the film is held together (to the extent that it holds together) by Alexander Berner’s editing, including some dandy bits of motion continuity, as one scene transitions to the next. It’s the connective tissue, the glue that keeps Cloud Atlas from flying all the way off the rails… The design can make momentum and engagement difficult, but it is admirably cinematic. There’s little sense in trying to graft a literary approach, designed for the page, onto the big screen…There’s a black-and-white, good-vs.-evil quality to the characterizations. Why does the evil Dr. Henry Goose (Hanks, sporting bad teeth) want to rob and poison the kindly Adam Ewing? Well, because Goose is evil. Why does the vainglorious composer Vyvyan Ayrs (Jim Broadbent, my favorite Cloud Atlas player) take advantage of his noble assistant (Ben Whishaw)? Because Ayrs is vainglorious… If you enter Cloud Atlas ready to scoff at mythopoetic hokum, you’ll find plenty of opportunity to indulge. But you’ll also find an audacity of scale and ambition very rare in movies. From its moment-to-moment triumphs, including the Tykwer-directed, present-day story line that finds Broadbent’s feckless book publisher plotting escape from a sort of senior citizen prison, to its macro failures, Cloud Atlas does nothing halfway…It has the courage of its convictions, as flighty as those may be."

Alex Bentley, Dallas CultureMap: "f there was any hope that the Wachowskis and Tykwer, who shared writing and directing duties, would ease the audience into this kind of mind-bender, that’s shot within the first five minutes. They whipsaw you from story to story, barely stopping to take a breath, let alone lay out proper introductions for the characters…This continues throughout the film, with visits to some stories sometimes lasting no more than a few seconds. Still, no particular story is given a higher level of importance over any other, as the trio makes sure to check in with every story before too much time has passed…It’s not until about an hour into the three-hour movie that it’s peculiar rhythm finally takes hold. But as confusing as the film is, the entertainment value is there from the beginning. Details within each story tantalize, keeping you present until the rewards start to get doled out… Although every actor does a great job of moving seamlessly from character to character, style points must be awarded to Berry, Broadbent and Weaving. They each play such a variety of personalities, ages and, in Berry’s and Weaving’s cases, genders. Their performances are an almost constant source of wonderment… Cloud Atlas is unlike any movie I’ve ever seen, which is a good thing — for the most part. At least it shows that ingenious filmmakers will always find a way to tackle material previously deemed unfilmable. That’s great news for all movie fans."

Preston Barta, Red Carpet Crash: 'Matrix' creators, the Wachowski siblings, and writer-director Tom Tykwer ('Run Lola Run,' 1998) joined forces and took a novel that was deemed unfilmable by its own author and made it into one of the most daring, ambitious and impressive spectacles in quite some time. Although the film is overly long (nearly three hours), and far from great, one cannot help but admire how it challenges its audience with its audacious style and complex, non-linear storytelling construct… An important aspect of the film is that the actors all play different characters throughout. Most of the main actors play six to eight characters that all live in different eras. But let it be known, that all of the actors give engaging performances, especially Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Ben Whishaw and Hugo Weaving… It is apparent that this film is not for everyone, and I imagine that many audiences will walkout within the first hour and wonder what they were watching. I can honestly say that the thought crossed my mind a few times. But if you are willing to give yourself over to a film that is unlike anything else— that covers subjects such as destiny, reincarnation and philosophy— then get ready to embark on a voyage that will take you to obscure places."

Kristy Puchko, Critical Mob: "The cast takes on roles within each arc, and it's fun to find them — often coated in thick prosthetic makeup — throughout the interwoven narrative. Moreover, it's exhilarating to watch actors play roles well outside their niche — like Hanks as a British bruiser or Grant as a bloody-mouthed cannibal — but what's most impressive is how well this mix of genres blends together… The connections are made between the characters arcs, emotions, and epiphanies, which makes the editing style supremely impressive and poignant. The cast, which is essentially asked to be in six films at once, likewise handles these shifts in genre, tone, and character with a magnificent skill and grace. With striking cinematography, awe-inspiring production design, dazzling performances, and some truly stupendous fight choreography that plays out like a violent dance number, Cloud Atlas is astounding." (4 out of 5 stars)

Peter Howell, The Record: "Early in Cloud Atlas, actor Jim Broadbent throws us a lifeline: “You will find there is a method to this tale of madness.” His droll publisher character Timothy Cavendish refers to something within the film, but he’s really addressing the audience — and also reassuring it… You can also see why the book was catnip to Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer, the co-writers/co-directors of the film. The Wachowskis are right at home in fantasy and sci-fi scenarios, having made The Matrix trilogy, and Tykwer’s breakthrough film Run Lola Run stopped and started time across its fractured narrative. They’re keeners, and believers in an audience that won’t shy away from big ideas about interconnected lives and reborn souls, and which can handle as many characters shifts than you’d find in a Dickens or Dostoevsky novel… You get caught up in their enthusiasm and ambition, and also the film’s lush visuals and score, even if a couple of the stories in Cloud Atlas feel a little thin or even silly. The Wachowski/Tykwer master strokes are changing the novel’s sequential stories into concurrent ones and having actors play multiple roles… Cloud Atlas is consistently challenging, frequently entertaining and occasionally maddening. The film is hard to get into at first, with so many stories being told at once. But it settles down and achieves the almost magical feat of pulling together most of the threads it so vigorously tangles at the outset."

Natalie Reyes, The Daily Californian: "'First catechism: Honor thy consumer.' Sonmi-451, a fast-food server at a glitzy, underground food court, utters the sacred phrase in Neo Seoul in the year 2144. It seems that directors Tom Tykwer and Andy and Lana Wachowski (sibling directors otherwise known as the Wachowski Starship) took this first catechism to heart in the film adaptation of David Mitchell’s 2004 novel 'Cloud Atlas.' The film, with an ensemble cast, stands not only as a faithful adaptation of a beloved book but also an exemplary piece of movie magic. It is the kind of production that reminds us that the film medium — and particularly the book-to-movie genre — is not dead…  If you’re not scratching your head about how these seemingly disparate stories are interconnected — or even related at all, save the obvious inclusion of Rufus Sixsmith in two stories — you probably should be. It’s a dizzying plot setup. Any one of the stories could surely be lengthened into its own feature film… And yet this is the format that Mitchell wrote (and the filmmakers tweaked for the silver screen), and with good reason: There is an interconnectedness, a relativity between the tales that speaks to the interdependence of humanity itself… With “The Matrix” and “V for Vendetta” under their belts, the Wachowskis are particularly adept at crafting worlds. The prosthetics in the film are impressive — each actor plays multiple characters, and part of the fun is trying to spot a familiar face in an unfamiliar body. Tom Hanks, for instance, transitions between seedy ship surgeon to an early 20th-century hotel manager to a soul-patched gangster. Sometimes the faces are unrecognizable, changing ethnicities and ages with remarkable smoothness and believability… I don’t believe it is a fluke that a film whose central theme is eternal, transcendent love could leave me so at peace and, yes, thoroughly in love with it."

Andrew O'Hehir, Salon: "I will tell you in the same breath that “Cloud Atlas” is a flawed and potentially ridiculous work and that I loved it, and can’t wait to see it a second time (and then a third). Indeed, all of that is connected, as the movie itself reminds us — perhaps too many times… I can appreciate a well-crafted work of Hollywood formula that gives the audience what it already knows it wants, at least up to a point, but I often come away feeling restless and unsatisfied. I’d almost always rather see the rare kind of pop spectacle that takes enormous risks, that reaches for grand themes, big ideas and operatic emotions, even if it makes indefensible mistakes along the way…. But its too-muchness is also the source of its power; I was absolutely never bored, and felt surprised when the movie ended. It’s an amazing, baffling, thrilling and (for many, it would appear) irritating experience, and for my money the most beautiful and distinctive big-screen vision of the year… You could say it’s a truth or a truism, that it’s fundamentally scientific or essentially religious. Individual human lives can seem like irrelevant or accidental phenomena, all too easily snuffed out; but the connections between them are more varied and diverse than we can ever see, and taken all together they are like a river of meaning and information, flowing inexorably into the future… Purely at a cinematic level, “Cloud Atlas” is full of eye-popping delights, a puzzle movie and an anthology movie that incorporates numerous different genres and styles. .. More important than that, the recurring presence of so many actors in different roles throughout the film – Hanks and Berry first and foremost, but also Sturgess, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant, Ben Whishaw, Korean actress Doona Bae, veteran Wachowski villain Hugo Weaving and numerous others – creates the sense of a tide or undertow that connects all these people and their stories but that’s impossible to define. I don’t think it’s supposed to be 'convincing' to see Berry or Doona Bae playing 19th-century Englishwomen. Perhaps it’s supposed to remind us that personal identity, like embedded social categories such as race or gender, is something we make up as we go along… I can understand why some people will back away from “Cloud Atlas” because it seems overloaded and pretentious and sentimental and infused with a spiritual vision that resembles the wise sayings found on the walls of organic-food cooperatives. It is all those things, but so (even more so) is Terrence Malick’s 'Tree of Life,' and I’m way more likely to want to watch this one again. It’s funny, violent and prodigiously romantic; it has immense heart and more gorgeous cinematic moments than I can describe. "

[To Be Continued– LJ Says Original Post Still Too Large…]

Cloud Atlas: more Hugo Weaving Video Interviews, Post-Release Coverage

Note: this is an archived entry. Some links might not still work, but I have tried to ensure scan and video embeds are still in place. If any linked material is unavailable, please let me know and I’ll attempt to find a copy in my personal archives.

Sorry I never followed up a few nights ago as the Cloud Atlas premiere was underway; after a full day of following the film online, my eyeballs and stamina were shot. I wasn't joking on Facebook when I said I had floaters that were flashing a dozrn bright colors and dancing a conga line. 😉 also, as most of you have probably gathered by now, Hugo Weaving wasn't in attendance at the LA premiere. Most of the cast (and the three directors) were on hand, but Hugo, Ben Whishaw and Hugh Grant weren't there… Whishaw might have been busy at the Skyfall premiere (he's in both films). Can't say I was terribly surprised, as Hugo did fly in to do press for the film on October 12-14, and I don't see him hanging out in Los Angeles for ten days in between… OR flying back to Sydney then flying back out. I don't know if he opted out due to these logistics, a scheduling conflict or because he feels burned by the entertainment press after the of hysterical overreaction to a few incidental comments on Transformers and Captain America. (I'd be inclined to think the third is least likely, as Hugo doesn't usually follow the online entertainment media.)

Anyhow, there's still hope he might be in attendance at the Berlin premiere on November 5 or an Australian premiere early next year. He has gone all out in assisting the promotion of the film, and most of the press for Cloud Atlas seems to have been handled on that press junket the 14-16 rather than at the premiere which, Halle Berry's gown aside, was rather lightly covered. 😉 We all have to remember that Hugo isn't particularly a fan of "red carpet events" in the first place, and has never attended 100% of multiple premieres for any major international release apart from The Matrix Reloaded. (Then he skipped all but one of the Revolutions premieres to do a play.) 😉 So… I'm grateful for all these new interviews. I'll add everything that's come in since the last entry, then maybe try to post a review roundup… there are literally hundreds of new reviews, and they continue to lean positive, though the film continues to be divisive. It is very much a matter of what Agent Smith might have called "vagaries of perception."  I'm astonished at both how jaded and how clueless a lot of mainstream critics have been. And yes, negative reviews do seem to break down along lines of critics who hated the film because it asked them to think and those that hated it for asking them to feel.

Unfortunately, the film is already being tagged a box-office disappointment by some bean-counting sites– I'm not sure how they could know before the first evening performances have started. But I am going to take the unusual step of imploring fans to see the film as soon as they can, if they feel motivated to see it at all. I always felt Cloud Atlas would have to gradually build as a cult hit over time rather than top the box office charts– Warner Bros chickened out slightly on booking it, and some regional theater chains (such as the one I went to last night) are doing a miserable job with local advertising, online ticket sales, etc. Films like this are a challenge and do ask a certain amount of the viewer, but they deserve to exist, and we're all poorer if only sequels, superhero schlock and formulaic genre films clog the multiplexes while movies of this scope and ambition are no longer made because they're not "bankable". There were only about five people at the midnight screening I attended last night– at least every one of them enthusiastically applauded at the end. Some people are put off by the 3 hour run-time and Big, Weighty Themes implied in the commercial. While the film isn't as brainless and disposable as most of the Halloween fare currently playing, it's not a chore, not unfathomable, and not something you need a graduate thesis to enjoy.  If it errs, I'd say it errs on the side of being too obvious in some respects, though if the film gets you on its wavelength, you'll hardly mind. You might be profoundly moved. You might be merely entertained.

As I mentioned, I did see the film a second time last night, and was much more caught up in the emotionalism of it this time. I was more able to put aside expectations and enjoy it for what it is… and there are a million little details that will be rewarded by multiple viewings. Obviously if you hated the book or find the promotions off-putting, you should steer clear. But I do think most people could find something in this to love, or at least be entertained by. Hugo's limited roles remain my major sticking point, and at times take me out of the movie because he deserves more complex characters to tackle than he was given. Even those that are entertaining conceptually (Nurse Noakes, Bill Smoke) are given such minimal dialogue and such rote symbolic heft that I'd probably have been annoyed at the limitations no matter who played those particular roles. Old Georgie remains most interesting, but even he could have been more developed– I don't know anyone whose personalty is broken down into strickly "good" and "evil" sides– there are necessary (and deeply ingrained/cultural) aspects of anyone's dark side and that part of us never completely vanishes, so the notion he only represents evil qualities in the film is frustrating. watching Hugo in this guise mess with Tom Hanks is quite fun, however. That aside, I was on the verge of tears several times, which I hadn't been the first time.

And I'll repeat that anyone using the film to demagogue racial issues, or who thinks the film is racist, either hasn't seen it or is reprehensible. I have noticed several individuals trying to make a name on the basis of attacking the film on this issue– their arguments are specious and innacurate. Ignore them. Of the multiple actors playing Asian (or, as I should probably put it, mixed-heritage, English speaking Neo Seoul characters with some Asian traits) only James D'Arcy attempts a "mid-Pacific" accent. Jim Sturgess sounds exactly the same as he does everywhere else, and Hugo Weaving sounds exactly like his Agent Smith characters. D'Arcy's portrayal is sensitive and soulful– the script suggests he once spoke Korean (which is no longer an accepted language among the ruling class in the film) and has been repressing his past and true self to maintain his position. But he might also be the starting point for Sonmi's revolution. To backtrack, the Neo Seoul in the film is not meant to be an accurate portrit of modern Korea or Korean culture. It's a mixed society infiltrated by many cultures. The government is a corporate oligarchy which has imposed English as the official language (all other languages are now deemed "subspeak") and is likely from America, Europe or a mixture of the two. So yes, it's deliberately ironic that these people call themselves "purebloods".  They don't look authentically Korean because– duh!– they aren't. I know I won't get some of the identity politics pedants off this subject because they enjoy the undue attention it's getting them. But maybe those of us who've actually seen the movie will be able to get through to a few others who've been misled on this issue. If anything, their rantings slander the efforts of three Asian actresses who probably wouldn't have worked in American films otherwise.

So… if you do value this film or if you're a fan of any of these actors or directors who worked so hard on it.. please try to see it early and, if so moved, often. It actually is important.

Now to the videos… first up, another MTV clip, this one featuring cast members discussing the most surprising makeup job they encountered on the set. Hugo isn't interviewedm but Nurse Noakes gets a shout-out. 😉

MTV: Cloud Atlas Makeup Moments

Here's the Reelz Channel Hugo Weaving/Susan Sarandon interview. I saw this at 3am on TV the night of the premiere… helped taker the edge off not seeing Hugo on the red carpet. As usual, he's thoughtful and deferential to a fault. And belied all the whiny fanboy notions that he's "jaded" for not wanting to play Megatron into his 80s. 😉 NOTE: if the embed fails, click on the link. Sorry for any technical difficulties.

Here's yet another Behind the Scenes featurette from Reviews on the Run. Fortunately the bad techno music in this is NOT in the film. 😉

On The Red Carpet has another Hugo Weaving/Susan Sarandon interview

I'll add more to this entry soon!