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I Bet You Didn’t See… Cloud Atlas

Contains Spoilers!!!

I don’t think any film is perfect and giving top marks to any film seems like I am saying it is perfect. No film is perfect. Cloud Atlas is not perfect, it is just down-right clever!

The film revolves around an idea, rather than one single story. The idea being souls are connected and can affect the future. One soul goes from being a killer and a crook to becoming a hero, while another challenges their eras society and becomes the figurehead for a religion centuries later (sound familiar?). All the main actors within the film play a different character in each time period, each with varying significance, but there is one piece of music that ripples throughout: The Cloud Atlas Sextet.

An idea of how the actors change across the story lines.

Six stories are all played out throughout the film, with different sections intertwining each story. We are flitted between 1849 in the South Pacific, 1936 Edinburgh, 1973 San Francisco, 2012 London, 2144 “Neo Seoul” and 2321 post-apocalyptic Hawaii. The last two dates I have got off the online descriptions of the film as they are not stated clearly in the film. The list of actors is amazing. Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent, Ben Whishaw, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae and James D’Arcy as the main actors. Each have a role in every timeline. Some are key (Hanks in post-apocalyptic Hawaii, Berry in ’73 ‘Cisco, Whishaw in ’36 Edinburgh etc), which some are very small roles (Whishaw in 2012 London plays Grant’s wife, Broadbent in Neo Seoul is only seen in the background playing an instrument in the street in one short clip). Pretty much every actor in the film occurs in all the timelines, while some will occur a couple of times. The point being made that souls are repeated through time, and cause and effect ripples throughout.

1849 South Pacific – Jim Sturgess is a solicitor for his father-in-law (Weaving) and is there to sign off on a deal. He is poisoned by a doctor on board the ship (Hanks) who is stealing his gold but is saved by an escaping slave.

1936 Edinburgh – Ben Whishaw is a bisexual amanuensis for an aging composer (Broadbent) who is threatened with being outed by his employer if he tries to claim he wrote ‘The Cloud Atlas Sextet. His story is told through Whishaw narrating letters written to his lover, Sixsmith (James D’Arcy).

1973 San Francisco – Halle Berry portrays a journalist trying to expose a cover up that a new Nuclear Power Station is deliberately being allowed to fail just to pump oil prices up. She is helped by an aging Sixsmith, a physicist from the Station (Hanks) and chased by a killer (Weaving).

2012 London – Jim Broadbent leads this storyline as a failing book publisher who is tricked by his brother (Grant) and imprisoned in a retirement home, policed by Nurse Nokes (Weaving, in drag). This is the comedic line that breaks up the tension of the others. Tom Hanks appears here as a brilliant Irish thug who is trying to get his book published.

2144 Neo Seoul – A futuristic idea of life in a struggling world, Doona Bae leads as Sonmi-451, an artificially created human part of a group that are used for cheap labour. She is liberated by a rebel (Sturgess) and joins their cause to head the rebellion against the authorities. This section drew criticism for multi-race actors portraying Asian characters. However, the same actors are used continuously across the film playing various races, supporting the story idea of “the continuity of souls” (quoted from this link).

Hugo Weaving as his evil daemon, Old Georgie

2321 Hawaii – Tom Hanks takes the lead as a tribesman on a remote island who speak a kind of Pidgeon English, and worship Sonmi. They are stalked by the cannibalistic Kona Tribe (led by Grant). Halle Berry takes on the role of a visitor from a surviving society elsewhere on Earth, looking to send a S.O.S. message out to humans living on other planets. Hugo Weaving is brilliant as a devil that haunts Hanks’ character.

Each storyline is linked to it’s chronologically previous one in some way, which is obvious to the viewer, and while the film may run for a lengthy 172 minutes, it really doesn’t feel like it. It is tense, entertaining, witty, and clever without overdoing too much. I completely disagree with the critics in 2012 slating the film for its length and number of intertwining stories, but I get why people didn’t like it.

Hanks and Berry meet once again

In my mind, this film is incredible. It’s brave, bold, unique, and stunning in its audaciousness. I don’t know of any other film like it, and that is why I am rating it 10/10. There are probably things wrong with it, but I was so engrossed in it that I can’t really see anything wrong that stands out. I love it. I look forward to reading the book. I encourage absolutely everyone to check this film out!

Directed by: Tom Tykwer, Lana & Lilly Wachowski

Screenplay by: Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer

Based on: ‘Cloud Atlas’ by David Mitchell

Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent, Ben Whishaw, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, James D’Arcy

Released: February 22, 2013

My Rating: 10/10

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