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.”

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