Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling remarks from my mad, muddled, meandering mind.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Cloud Atlas

What is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?
On Sunday, Sctrz and I saw Cloud Atlas. Perhaps understandably, between the genre-defying complexity of the story (dramatic dystopian historical sci-fi post-apocalyptic industrial conspiracy action thriller farce), which makes it difficult to market, and external factors like Hurricane Sandy bearing down on the Eastern Seaboard of North America, it didn't exactly do spectacularly at the box office this weekend. However, I think it may be one of the most important films of this year. Much of the praise heaped upon, say, Looper, belongs to Cloud Atlas.

Don't get me wrong, I liked Looper. Great acting, great action, great movie making. It got great reviews from critics, slightly less great reviews from movie-goers. But if you think a bit about that movie, its premise unravels pretty quickly. Cloud Atlas becomes more profound—more involving—the more I think about it. It received poorer reviews from critics, but was much better received by movie-goers, though still less than Looper. Roger Ebert, just about the only critic I trust to review a movie with a proper understanding of its target audience, shared his impressions of Cloud Atlas here.
Yesterday, I believe I would never have done what I did today.
Future. Present. Past.
The movie intersperses several story arcs set in different eras. Assuming each era receives equal screen time (they don't), they're about a half-hour apiece, with the whole thing running roughly 2:52. The plot of each era is fairly straightforward and easy to follow; the trick is that it is much like trying to watch 6 different shows by flipping channels. The different storylines are connected more by theme and character beats than plot, though some things do bleed over from one era to the next. Realizing the connections is one of the delights of the film. Omer M. Mozaffar discusses some keys to the themes of the book (which is structured differently) and the movie here.

The dialogue has been criticized by some as obscure, some of the eras use odd dialects and accents. I didn't have any trouble understanding the actors, though it did require concentration at times. The movie bears rewatching, unlike some films that you can watch once, take it all in, and never need to see it again—even if you enjoy it. The biggest distraction, actually, was a result of casting the same actors in every era, sometimes under heavy makeup that made them virtually unrecognizable. This created a game of discovering who was under what disguise that detracted from the unfolding stories. [edit: OMG! I made another connection just now.] I missed least one major character until the ending credits.
A half-finished book is, after all, a half finished love affair.
Death. Life. Birth.
As I have indicated, this will be a movie that requires effort. Maybe you don't want that in your entertainment, I don't always want it. This time it works though. I was more engaged in this movie than in any other I've seen this year. (Much like I am engaged by The Secret World.) And I've seen more than just a few.

The movie is both visually stunning and thematically deep. Some say it leans toward preachiness; and I suppose it does. There may even be some ideas that offend some people. But I think that the main theme, that we are all connected, is a universal truth. We just may not be connected the way the film portrays it.
Love. Hope. Courage.
Like all good science fiction, Cloud Atlas makes you think about the what-ifs of life—of history. What is the "natural order of things"? What prejudices do we cling to? Why do we continue to make the same mistakes? Can we break out of destructive cycles? What would you do if you were confronted with the radically unexpected?

Cloud Atlas is a movie about hope and courage: hope for a better future combined with the courage to bring that future about. We may not succeed in our lifetimes, but we move ever closer to a brighter tomorrow. Above all, Cloud Atlas is a love story. You may not believe in soul mates, but it is certainly a running theme in many Hollywood films. I think that is OK.

I fear I can't convey the feelings I had watching this movie, so this review feels flat, analytical. The lengthy trailer embedded above was moving before I saw the movie itself. Today, as I went to watch it again looking for quotes, tears welled up, twice. All I can say is go see it. And when you do see Cloud Atlas, watch it with someone you love.


  1. Still hoping that the drive-in by us will end up showing this movie, so we can bring the baby and not have to find a babysitter. I've read the book this was based upon, and am very curious what the movie will be like, since the format is very unconventional.

    1. If you have to wait for the DVD, I guess that would be OK, too. I put this out there mostly because I feel strongly about the film, but it doesn't look long for the cineplex world.

      People shouldn't wait to see it if they're at all interested. There was some movie out earlier this year (I can't remember) that we decided to wait a couple weeks to see, then it underperformed and had disappeared from theaters before we could see it.

    2. I can definitely wait. I didn't see Prometheus until it came out on DVD and I had wanted to see that sooooo badly, but hey, I survived :D

      We might go see a movie this weekend, at said drive-in. But it's Wreck-It Ralph! :D

  2. My wife and I went to see Cloud Atlas tonight. I have been dying to see the film since the trailer debut. My wife went to appease my excitement.

    We both absolutely loved the film. I cannot even begin to imagine what an undertaking it was to direct this film. The pace of the film, the stunning visuals and different locales which needed to be created are imposing enough. The Warchowski's took a novel that would be seemingly impossible to put on film and pulled it off brilliantly. If this film does not win multiple Oscars ill be shocked.

    The themes that resonate throughout Cloud Atlas kept us glued to our seats for the almost three hour run time. I am disheartened more people are not going to see Cloud Atlas in the theatre. The epicness will not translate to the home theatre. I implore anyone who is remotely interested in seeing Cloud Atlas to see it NOW.

    Great write up. I agree an important film, easily the best of year for me, and one I look forward to seeing many many more times.

    1. It is definitely worth seeing in the theater if at all possible. I will be grabbing this one on Blu-Ray. We may go see it again in the theater, time and budget permitting.

  3. Hadn't heard of this movie before reading the post. Usually watch allot of movies at the Theater but just haven't been keeping up lately. Looking at the preview I seem like my kind of movie and looking at it does seem like and unconventional movie in theme. Will surely check it out.

    1. Yes it is unconventional. I've started to read the book. Wonderful use of language to set the mood. Not sure whether seeing the movie first was good or bad.