It was way back in 1999 ‘The Matrix’ hit the screen, directed by the Wachowskis when they were still ‘brothers’. The Matrix blew me away when I saw it and it still does. The movie just questions your whole existence, it really made you ask yourself: “Are we really living in a Matrix?”. Even last week I read an article on IGN that scientists were still researching on the topic. The Matrix sets a milestone for CG in movies too, especially the revolutionary Bullet-time which had been used and over-used ever since. It was something you’d never seen in movies before and I still find The Matrix a technical marvel. The Wachowskis went off the grid for a while and gave us the splendid ‘V for Vendetta’ (written, not directed) and the less noteworthy ‘Speed Racer’. Tom Tykwer is another director who bestowed upon us another classic ‘Perfume The Story of a Murderer’. If you’ve seen it, and I suggest that you do if you haven’t, you’ll know that he’s a true blue story-teller. Who’d have thought their next project would be ‘Cloud Atlas’, an adaptation of David Mitchell’s book of the same name. Cloud Atlas is an anthology of six interwoven stories spanning through ages and aeons and was considered to be un-filmable until now and you’ll know exactly why, when are you done watching the movie. This is not a good choice for casual movie goers although for those who have read the book it’s a real treat. It’s sci-fi-adventure-drama-comedy all squeezed into one remarkable, brain-stimulating movie.
Cloud Atlas stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Ben Winshaw, Jim Sturgess, Hugo Weaving, Doona Be, Hugh Grant, Susan Sarandon and I really hope I haven’t missed out on any. With an all-star cast of who’s-who of Hollywood rather crammed in all six stories, it both delivers an array of awesome performances and confuses the viewer. Confuses as in, Cloud Atlas is more nested than interwoven; the stories take place inside stories and it does not move progressively rather it keeps pushing you into one narrative then taking you back to another and then back to another only to be diverted back to the very first. The cast here is directed to play different characters in each segment and the characters need not be connected at all. So when you see Tom Hanks play Zachry in one segment as a protagonist, he plays the malicious antagonist Dr. Henry Goose in another which actually keeps you thinking: “Is there really a connection between the two?” After-all the viewers can’t be blamed because the tagline of the movie itself suggests that “Everything is Connected”. There are some gratuitous use of make-up and I found it rather distracting than appealing. Nonetheless the actors themselves got a good chance at displaying how dynamic they could be in each segment. While Tom Hanks’ characters not-surprisingly stole the show, Ben Winshaw’s composer character was really intriguing, Doona Be’s Sonmi-451 with her tiny eyes did more acting than any in the futuristic segment, while Jim Sturgess’ Adam Ewing all by himself ran his own segment. You see it’s just difficult to quote who’s performance was better not spoiling the narrative but I found Jim Broadbent’s ‘Timothy Cavendish’ to be the most entertaining, incorporating comedy and drama to his section breaks the tense narratives that it was enclosed in.
The editing is splendid in terms of what they have achieved here and it’s also to be blamed for the cobwebby sequences intertwining and strangling you into the narratives. As a result you rarely invest your emotions in one character and maybe that’s what the directors wanted too. The film initially crafts each characters outlook which takes its own sweet time and takes pace towards the 2nd act and from there its smooth sailing leading to a much enjoyable pay-off. I loved how they’ve sewn together tense sequences as well as emotional sequences. Add to that a range of absolutely spellbinding scores that compliments each string of sequences that wraps the package pulling the right strings and keys to touch your emotions. I loved ‘All Boundaries are Conventions’ is a more pleasant track. Clocking close to 3 hours it definitely tests your bladder but I was not bored even once. Sometimes I thought certain narratives would never get anywhere but a sequence in the narrative changes everything in an unexpected turn of events that leads to the aforementioned sweet payoff.
In all its grandeur, Cloud Atlas is a commendable adaptation of something considered to be un-adaptable to the celluloid. It’s a flawed but ambitious movie. It’s thought-provoking and will work up emotions. I consider it to the likes of Darren Aronofsky’s ‘The Fountain’. Where ‘The Fountain’ spanned centuries with 3 intertwining storylines with 2 titular characters, Cloud Atlas went up a notch incorporating a slew of actors and spanning 6 storylines in different time-periods rendering it a challenge for the 3 directors. It’s, at times, a mangled mess and another, an ingeniously crafted masterpiece.
“Some movies are like wine, it gets better with age and Cloud Atlas deserves some time to be digested and etched in people’s minds.”