Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas was a sudden and unlikely film for me to look forward to. Reason being, I hate the directors and their films. Well, two thirds of the directors anyway. The Wachowski's, until now, have not created ONE film worth-while for me. I hate all 3 Matrix films, and Speed Racer looked HORRID. I mean, HORRID. I walked into 15 or 20 minutes of that "film" at the theatre. Sheesh. But this isn't about bashing The Wachowski's for the terrible films they've made. It's about praising them for the good one they have made.

This film is something that hasn't been done before. And for that, I give immense credit to The Wachowski's and Tom Tykwer. Even if this failed on all levels, I would have still given them an "A" for effort. It's an ambitious project. And a massive undertaking.

For those of you who are unaware as to what the film is generally about, it's a film that takes place between a span of about 4 different time periods and places. You have the 1800's, the 70's, present-day, and the distant-future. Some scenes take place in San Francisco, Korea, a few native islands, and a lot of oceanic scenes. And due to this, that is why it's ambitious and a tough sell. And on top of all that. All of the lead actors each play around 4 or 5 different characters, give or take 1 or 2.

What I particularly love about the film are the themes that intertwine. To be honest, I didn't realize many of them until I started writing this review. That's the kind of film this is. It's a 3-hour time machine. You're not going to register everything in 3 hours. Believe me. I usually watch films after-hours with a good 15 beers in my system, and another 8 or 9 DURING the film. Had I done that with this film... Jesus. But I decided to watch this during hours of operation at my theatre... Sober. Like I said, It'll take a while to register everything.

To delve into the story would be... A task. None of the stories particularly connect from end to end. But as a whole, they're all connected. Which is what the film's tagline suggests "Everything is Connected". You wouldn't use that tagline with a film like Pulp Fiction. Why? Because when you watch Pulp Fiction, it's about four or five different characters who directly connect. With Cloud Atlas, they connect indirectly. The lover of the one character in the 1800's is the keeper of nuclear information to another character in the 1970's. But that "other character" is connected to an assassin whose daughter in the 1800's marries a man who freed a slave who was the father of the "other character" in the 1970's. It seems complex, and it is. But what eases the complexity of it all is that they don't play the same characters in each time. SOME do, but most dont. I think the idea here is re-incarnation. The idea that in this life you're a cold-blooded killer, and in the next, youre a hero. But it doesn't always have to differentiate. You can be freeing slaves in the 1800's, and in the distant-future, you can be freeing slaves that of a different race.

The actors. This is a film that brings together an ensemble of quality actors without just throwing their names on the poster, and having them just stand there and talk like many ensemble/non-Expendables films do. In fact, it goes above and beyond. Instead of casting Tom Hanks as one character, fuck it... Let's cast him as 5! The film makers did such an incredible job with who they wanted to play what characters, that at the credits of the film, they show you all the characters the actors played. Because some of them are unrecognizable. Some actors play women, some actresses play men, some black actors play white characters, some white actors play asian characters. And it's all done pretty fucking good.

I always mention the music in a film. But with Cloud Atlas, it's especially important. Partially due to the fact the film's title is strictly derived from a piece of music written in the film. It's called "The Cloud Atlas Sextet". It may very well be the thread through out the film. But as I mentioned before, there's a lot to think about with this film. "The Cloud Atlas Sextet" is a piano piece written by one of the main characters. And this may give you more of an understanding as to what the tagline "Everything is Connected" means. An elderly composer hires a younger composer to translate this song he keeps hearing in his dream because he can't translate music to paper anymore. They don't quite get it. It wasnt until the boy played a piece of his original music, and the old man says, "That's the music from my dream!". It's a beautiful moment in the film. Because it goes to show you that things are much more than what they seem. What was once just piece of music written was a man's dream for months and months.

There is one thing that I particularly love about this film. The trailer. There are a couple trailers out there. But there are really only two. The regular 2 minute and 30 second trailer, and the 5 minute and 42 seconds trailer. The latter is INCREDIBLE. That is what sold me on this film. I watched it stubborn and not really giving a fuck. It ended. "Okay, that looked dumb and... Okay". Then I caught myself watching it again and again. Did I really just spend the past 20 minutes re-watching this trailer? Why did I do that? Because it's THAT FUCKING GOOD. Watch the trailer, and listen to the voice-over dialogue. It sums up the film perfectly. "One day I was headed in one direction... Today I am headed in another". That is what life consists of. A series of events (minor or major) altering the course of your life. Second by second, it's altering as I type.

With this film, there are 3 directors. And I can understand the need and reason for that. Though, I have seen The Wachowski's films, I have never seen any of the other director, Tom Tykwer's films. But I could tell what he did direct, due to difference in style and humor. For instance, Im sure he directed a lot of the smaller comedic scenes. Most of the scenes I could guess who directed what, but there is one time-frame I KNOW The Wachowski's directed. And that was the futuristic scenes. Because it felt very Matrix-y. And because of that, I guess that was my least favorite time-period/setting of the film. But at the same time, it was the most important. For obvious reasons (and maybe not-so-obvious, because it's all over the place), I can't really go into WHY it's so important.

In the end, this is a film that deserved an audience, but sadly never got it. Im writing this 2+ weeks later because I really wanted this to settle in my brain. And honestly, I dont think It'll really settle until repeat viewings. Is this film flawless? No. It has many flaws. But I can see it being nearly flawless in years to come. Because this is not a film that is cut and dry.

Before I get any drunker and spill beer on my computer, let me say this: Watch the film, and try to enjoy it. I say that about any film, unless it was directed by Paul W.S. Anderson or Zack Snyder (and even The Wachowski's [But Cloud Atlas exists, so they're off this list]).

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