Movie Review: A perfect symphony

2012-11-02 12:27

Film: Cloud Atlas (Ster-Kinekor)
Directors: Tom Tykwer, Lana and Andy Wachowski
Featuring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Sturgess, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, Doona Bae, Ben Wishaw, Hugo Weaving and James D’Arcy
Rating: 8/10

Cloud Atlas is about the infinite nature of humanity, about how we are all linked through time and space by our actions.

It is an epic piece of film making, like a perfectly conducted symphony – in tune with the piece of music that gives this film its name.

Co-directed by Tom Tykwer – whose last project was to bring Patrick Susskind’s singular Perfume: The Story of a Murderer to the screen – and the Wachowski siblings, Lana and Andy (whose most famous work is The Matrix Trilogy), there is no clash of egos or vision in this film.

The trio do justice to David Mitchell’s novel, the concepts of which are an antidote to the simplistic concepts of heaven and hell thrust upon us by religion.

Instead, Mitchell’s tale populates a huge canvas that gathers elements of every major belief system that has existed in human memory, and then he creates a completely new one out of those.

At its core, though, is this: our actions determine not only our own futures but those of our fellow human beings.

The idea makes each of us accountable for our reality and the reality of those around us.

The characters’ “souls” travel through time and the story covers a multitude of periods during a 500-year slice of human history: from the mid-1800s, during the time of slavery, to the eve of World War 2, into the nuclear age of the 1970s, then into the present, before leapfrogging into the 22nd century and finally to a time measured in years after “The Fall”.

Cloud Atlas is three hours long, but you won’t feel it.

The creators pluck at the space-time continuum to bring a time and place into focus, and tell a segment of a story that dovetails into a broader tale that is told across about 20 generations of human experience.

Each of the core characters – played by Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Wishaw, Hugo Weaving and James D’Arcy – don prosthetics, wigs and an array of costumes to blend into the time and place that each part of their story takes place in.

Their eyes, though – famously the window to the soul – remain constants.

Some of these travelling souls appear to learn from the mistakes of a past life, one that they can’t remember but in echoes.

Others are always cast in the role of hero or martyr, unable to not listen to the suffering of those past and future souls even if it means certain death. Some – like the array of characters played by Hugo Weaving – endlessly follow the chilling motto: “The strong must eat and the weak are meat.”

Perhaps the most terrible aspect of so many of these stories that extrapolate where humankind will be in 200 years or more is that they seldom give any reason for hope. Mitchell bucks this trend to some extent.

His pivotal character, played by Tom Hanks, finally finds his inner hero and so offers a glimmer of hope for our kind.

The world, however, never fares very well. Our own rapacious natures always seem to be too much for Mother Nature to survive.

Cloud Atlas is a daring cinematic experiment that the makers pull off seamlessly – the editing is spectacular.
It is a story that does justice to the complexity of human experience. The romantic in the story celebrates eternal love, the idealist deifies those who sacrifice themselves, but the realist within has to acknowledge the brutality of the human being.

» Follow me on Twitter @GayleMahala

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