Director: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Writer: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Based on: David Mitchell’s novel
Cast: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, Keith David, James D’Arcy, Xun Zhuo, David Gyasi, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, Robert Fyfe, Götz Otto
Cloud Atlas tells six interlocking stories where the same set of souls cross paths over and over again. In The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing, we follow the young notary Adam (Jim Sturgess) on his way back to the US on a ship in the mid 19th century where he meets a doctor (Tom Hanks) and a slave (David Gyasi) who both greatly influence his fate. In Letters from Zedelghem, the young composer Robert Frobisher (Ben Whishaw), who finds himself in financial difficulties, comes to Belgium to work with Vyvyan Ayrs (Jim Broadbent), a famous but ill composer. In Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery, we read about the journalist Luisa Rey (Halle Berry) who uncovers a conspiracy regarding a power plant which puts her in grave danger. In The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish, Cavendish (Jim Broadbent) is a publisher who asks his brother (Hugh Grant) for help to get out of his debts. When the quiet getaway turns out to be a senior home, he seems to be caught between a rock and a hard place. In An Orison of Sonmi~451, the clone Sonmi~451 (Doona Bae) tells an archivist (James D’Arcy) her life story from the fast food joint Papa Song where she worked as a waitress until her life took a turn in a very different direction. In Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin’ After, Zachry (Tom Hanks) is one of the few people in the world who survived The Fall. His life with his family gets disrupted when one of the Prescients, who still have technology from the Old Uns, called Meronym (Halle Berry) comes to stay with them.
I didn’t love the book, but I liked it overall. I thought that I would probably feel the same way about the film, with the added advantage that the film would provide me with the stunning visuals the trailer promised. Unfortunately the movie did not work for me at all.
I think that my biggest frustration was with the trans-racial make-up. It just irritated the hell out of me. I thought that it pushed the actors into the uncanny valley and I couldn’t even ignore it for one second. It was just creepy. (Also, Hugo Weaving as Nurse Noakes looked equally wrong, despite being not trans-racial. That seemed just lazy.) [And that's not even getting into the really difficult-in-this-particular-case political dimension of "Asian face."]
The other thing that just annoyed me was how completely esoteric they made this movie. They just took every possibility that the book had given me to ignore the spiritual crap and threw it out the window. There is only so much pretend wisdom I can take until I want to club people to death with Paulo Coelho books and this film is far past that line, it’s not even funny anymore. It was just manipulative.
And then they took my favorite parts of the book and completely ruined them. They took Sonmi’s story and gave it to Hae-Joo (Jim Sturgess). He’s the hero, she’s the damsel in distress. He makes all the decision, becomes the super-action star, while she has to be rescued all the time to become the face (and the face only) of the rebellion. [And if that wasn't enough gender-fuckery, they introduced Ursula (Susan Sarandon) into Cavendish's story, giving her an entire life (she obviously has children and/or grandchildren - that much we see through the window) that she is willing to drop the minute Cavendish comes back for her. GNAAAH.]
I also thought that they pretty much ruined Frobisher’s story. I’m all for gay romance, but why-oh-why did they have to take the one bisexual character and make him gay? And why-oh-why did they have to send Sixsmith (James D’Arcy) after him for that needless melodrama with his suicide? In the book, it is actually clear why he killed himself. In the film it was only done for the drama.
It was a little hard to tell with all the make-up fuckery whether the cast was all that good, admittedly. Susan Sarandon certainly was. Ben Whishaw and James D’Arcy were also good. Hugo weaving is always good when he’s creepy. But Tom Hanks gave very mixed performances (and his Geordie was simply atrocious. I hesitate to call it Geordie at all) and unfortunately the movie focused a lot on him.
And every hope I had that the visuals would make up for the movie’s length was utterly destroyed pretty quickly. The most striking scenes were in the trailer already and apart from those scenes there was nothing much that I could feast my eyes on. Maybe because the BOREDOM clouded my eyes. Because I was bored out of my mind and this movie just wouldn’t end. Unlike my review which I’ll end now.
Summarising: I hated it.