Cloud Atlas (2012) by The Critical Movie Critics

Movie Review: Cloud Atlas (2012)


Cloud Atlas (2012) by The Critical Movie Critics

An old time tale.

Cloud Atlas is a challenge. It does not arrive as 99% of its film peers do, with a beginning, middle, and an end. Six different stories spanning over 500 years of time are woven together and make your mind work overtime not only keeping them apart, which is its job while you watch the film, but afterwards, trying to connect larger and deeper themes to them. Is Cloud Atlas the most visionary and grand movie of the year or is a pretentious bomb which falls apart under the weight of its ill-formed ideas?

I am inclined to say more towards the grand vision end of the spectrum. Recommending people see it is a given; however, it should come with a warning attached. It will not make immediate sense to you when the credits start rolling. File Cloud Atlas next to “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “The Tree of Life.” Some movie-goers classify these as ground-breaking cinema masterpieces which should be studied for decades to come; others believe they are a gobbled mess. Cloud Atlas has more specific plot lines than either of them though.

Describing the plot of the separate stories of Cloud Atlas is missing the point. They are separate vignettes, yet they are tied together in a larger sense by ideas of freedom and perhaps karma. The same actors appear in each story but as different individuals with different personalities, and even as the opposite gender. Tom Hanks and Halle Berry are the two main protagonists in a few of the stories but Jim Broadbent, Jim Sturgess, Hugo Weaving, James D’Arcy, Hugh Grant, and Susan Sarandon pop up quite regularly.

What is perhaps the main theme of Cloud Atlas is freedom. In 1849, a British lawyer (Sturgess) tangentially involved in the slave trade makes a choice which alters not only the rest of his life but transforms a slave into a free man. This has ripple effects throughout the next 500 years. In 1936, a young and edgy composer (Ben Whishaw) reads the lawyer’s journal and gets ideas about a different type of freedom, the mind’s freedom to think and create wondrous music. In 1973, the energy crisis is spawning a transformation from oil to nuclear power; however, an intrepid reporter (Berry) has stumbled upon an evil plan by an industry magnate. In 2012, an old publisher (Broadbent) mistakenly winds up in an old folks home and must plan his escape with other folks mostly tucked away there by their children waiting for them to die.

Cloud Atlas (2012) by The Critical Movie Critics

A tale in the future.

The 2012 story does not work very well. Compared to its five counterparts, it is small-minded, silly, and distinctly feels out of place. In 2144, the city of Neo Seoul has a new type of cloned-human whose main catechism to follow is “Honor Thy Consumer.” Society is based around the human power to shop and the government is now known as Unanimity; thinking for yourself is now entirely out of fashion. Finally, in 2346 after an event known as “The Fall,” men live in a hunter/gatherer type society on a large island sometimes visited by extremely technologically advanced outsiders who are looking for something.

Cloud Atlas has three separate writer/directors: Tom Tykwer and the Wachowski siblings. All of them have past work which today is considered visionary; Tykwer with “Run Lola Run” and the Wachowskis with the Matrix trilogy. They directed separate sections of Cloud Atlas which may account for the different atmosphere and tones employed in the filmmaking, but the pairing works. Telling a story which incorporates both laser gun shootouts in 2144 and the whipping of a slave in 1849 probably should have more than one director. The screenplay is based on a 2004 novel by David Mitchell which most likely tells a tighter and more easily digestible tale than the screen version.

Walking out of the theater after the show is over is an intriguing moment. Complete strangers will start up a conversation about what they just witnessed. I had a guy tell me, “You rarely see something like this.” Very true sir; Cloud Atlas is very rare indeed.

Critical Movie Critic Rating:
5 Star Rating: Fantastic

5

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'Movie Review: Cloud Atlas (2012)' have 31 comments

  1. The Critical Movie Critics

    October 26, 2012 @ 10:37 pm David

    Great movie. One of the best I’ve ever seen.

  2. The Critical Movie Critics

    October 26, 2012 @ 10:44 pm Kim Yeakel

    There was a well deserved standing ovation from the audience at the showing I went to. Many in attendance were visibly emotional.

  3. The Critical Movie Critics

    October 26, 2012 @ 11:17 pm Fukla

    Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer get the nod for directing this unwieldly beast. Any sane director would have turned tail and run at just the thought of trying to keep this on course and coherent.

  4. The Critical Movie Critics

    October 26, 2012 @ 11:39 pm Vinman

    Movie is getting a mixed bag of reviews. I’ll pass judgement after I see it tomorrow.

  5. The Critical Movie Critics

    October 27, 2012 @ 12:09 am Digitus

    It is impressive as a whole but the movie is slow and it takes a long time for all of the pieces of the puzzle to fit together sensibly. As reviewer says, undivided attention is an absolute must.

  6. The Critical Movie Critics

    October 27, 2012 @ 1:22 am Uncle Fester

    Biggest shortfall of Cloud Atlas is not everyone – I’m mostly talking about you Halle Berry – has the acting chops to tackle all the differing roles as required.

  7. The Critical Movie Critics

    October 27, 2012 @ 5:36 am Get Rational

    Nothing but New Age metaphysical nonsense tied up with red ribbon.

  8. The Critical Movie Critics

    October 27, 2012 @ 11:29 am LeDuc

    Deserves an ‘A’ for effort but I found the movie to be a 3-hour exercise in tedium.

  9. The Critical Movie Critics

    October 27, 2012 @ 11:50 am Nearo

    Don’t believe this review or any other one that ranks this movie among the best of the year (or ever). It is pure pretentious bloat and the effects, wardrobe, and makeup are criminally shoddy too.

    • The Critical Movie Critics

      October 27, 2012 @ 2:38 pm Fireballs

      It has flaws for sure, but the film is as close to faithful to the themes of the book as possible. Are you calling the book pretentious too?

      • The Critical Movie Critics

        October 28, 2012 @ 9:36 am Nearo

        Haven’t read the book but I suspect it spouts pretentious gospel too.

  10. The Critical Movie Critics

    October 27, 2012 @ 12:21 pm Andre991

    Read the book.

  11. The Critical Movie Critics

    October 27, 2012 @ 4:55 pm Phil

    Sadly with ADHD I can’t stay focused or still for three hours straight so I’ll have to wait until next year for OnDemand and the pause button. :-x :-x :-x

  12. The Critical Movie Critics

    October 27, 2012 @ 5:14 pm Kayla

    Good review Charlie. I remain on the fence, however. 3 hours is a long time to devote to a movie that will require additional viewings to “get”.

  13. The Critical Movie Critics

    October 27, 2012 @ 9:51 pm Brian

    Doesn’t interest me, just came to say the movie is a labor of love for Andy and Lana Wachowski. They’ve been working on bringing this to film for the better part of a decade.

  14. The Critical Movie Critics

    October 27, 2012 @ 11:16 pm Emory

    To put it simply: Cloud Atlas is a celebration of storytelling. An enthusiastic dissection of the human condition. Watch it. Read it. Experience it.

  15. The Critical Movie Critics

    October 28, 2012 @ 11:02 am Munroe

    I’m hearing the movie is stirring a lot of commotion over the cultural impact of Hugo Weaving in ” yellowface “. I haven’t seen the movie yet, so I haven’t formed an opinion – was it a necessary evil? Much ado about nothing?

    • The Critical Movie Critics

      October 28, 2012 @ 1:49 pm Nearo

      Both. And it isn’t limited to just Hugo Weaving.

    • The Critical Movie Critics

      October 28, 2012 @ 5:16 pm Ken

      I’m sure it could have been done another way but the directors chose to use the same actors to convey the reincarnation motif. One of the six stories takes place in Asia so several of the actors were doctered to appear Asian.

    • The Critical Movie Critics

      October 28, 2012 @ 6:00 pm viewless

      It’s an opportunity for minorities to point fingers and whine about perceived slights. You don’t hear any caucasians complaining that Halle Berry is in ‘whiteface’ do you?

      • The Critical Movie Critics

        October 29, 2012 @ 2:17 am Jesus

        Dude, crawl back under your rock, society doesn’t need the likes of you participating anymore.

      • The Critical Movie Critics

        October 29, 2012 @ 10:08 am mitharas

        Troll much?

        Those minorities “whining” may have a legitimate complaint. An in-depth discussion is going on about it here – racebending.com/v4/blog/cloud-atlas-conversation-yellowface-prejudice-artistic-license/

      • The Critical Movie Critics

        October 30, 2012 @ 12:29 am Troy

        No but I did complain when the Wayans brothers did it in White Chicks.

      • The Critical Movie Critics

        November 1, 2012 @ 5:34 pm Takeshi

        Just because it’s a nonissue to you doesn’t make it a nonissue for someone else. Walk a mile in their shoes …

      • The Critical Movie Critics

        November 3, 2012 @ 6:26 pm ablachere

        Redirect your hostility to a worthy cause. You’ll feel better about yourself and make the world more hospitable.

  16. The Critical Movie Critics

    October 28, 2012 @ 1:42 pm queenbqty

    Information overload. Have to see the movie to form own opinion.

  17. The Critical Movie Critics

    October 29, 2012 @ 2:45 pm paco

    I anticipated the movie so much I ruined it for myself. There was no way it could live up to expectations.

    It;s still good though!

  18. The Critical Movie Critics

    October 29, 2012 @ 9:13 pm GeoffHoff

    Tom Hanks is a king.

  19. The Critical Movie Critics

    October 31, 2012 @ 1:20 pm Shane

    CA wants so desperately to be an inspiration but it has no heart. It is contrived storytelling at its worst. Felt like I was sitting through a five hour lecture on existentialism.

  20. The Critical Movie Critics

    October 31, 2012 @ 6:18 pm Oliver

    just like every movie made before it, Cloud Atlas will NOT please everyone.

  21. The Critical Movie Critics

    November 7, 2012 @ 9:19 pm SOLO

    I have no idea what I just watched.

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