2nd OP Review: Cloud Atlas (2012)



Cloud Atlas is a sextet piece echoed throughout the film of the same name underlying spiritual themes such as Reincarnation, Karma and Past Lives. This music piece and a birthmark resembling a shooting star are just a few phenomena, creative works and traits that bound the lives of several individuals from various lifetimes, past, present and future, to shape one soul. It may seem at first (rather within the first 5 minutes) that Cloud Atlas, an adaptation of the novel written by David Mitchell, has an abundance of character plotlines as well as the amount of characters themselves, confusing the masses of which direction the writer and director want to take it. In this case, confusion is good, thinking is better and curiosity and intrigue are at an all time high. 


Screenplay and Direction

Each main actor has 5 or 6 characters they enact for this masterpiece of a film. For a film that took 4 years to develop with a budget of $102 Million setting the record for the most expensive independent film of all time, its no wonder the film is grand with talent. Halle Barry, Tom Hanks, Jim Sturgess, Hugo Weaving, and Hugh Grant have the most characters – six. The other secondary actors have 4-5 roles: Jim Broadbent, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, Susan Sarandon, Keith David and James D’Arcy. The film sequence is like viewing a 6 mini-episode saga because each time period or rather lifetime is like a full length movie on its own. You’re constantly trying to figure out how everyone is connected. When it becomes clear, you have a sudden enlightenment, like you just won the lottery or solved the $1 Million question. Its very clever. Keeping the audience with a move that constantly shifts to 6 different eras and 13 characters that seemly don’t have anything in common is very tricky and most times it does not work. 


Cloud Atlas Whois

Intricate, isn’t it?


[pullquote_left]”Forces can shape who we alter ourselves to be and continue before we are born and after we are long gone. Each encounter proposes a new direction.”[/pullquote_left] Many tones of the six eras explained are quite different. From the costumes, to the accents, each set date sequence felt fluent and immersible. I felt the connection of a character to each other and the invisible connection each shared throughout their lifetimes. 




Past Lifetimes


Starting with the oldest lifetime, year 1849 in South Pacific Ocean, an American Lawyer (Jim Sturgess as Adam Ewing) from San Francisco came to Chatham Islands to handle business with his father-in-law. He ultimately joins the Slavery Abolishment Movement after experiencing a journey at sea which involved his rescue by a runaway slave from a greedy rogue Doctor trying to steal his valuables aboard his ship. 


In Cambridge, England and Edinburgh, Scotland in 1936, A bi-sexual English musician, … as Robert Frobisher, found work as a amanuensis of a well-known composer, …. as Vyvyan Ayrs. Robert had a lover, …. as Rufus Sixsmith, with whom he kept contact with through letters. Robert also composed “The Cloud Atlas Sextet”, the masterpiece Ayrs wanted to take credit for. 


Rufus Sixsmith, much older and is now at San Francisco in 1973, is a nuclear physicist tipping off a journalist, Halle Barry as Luisa Ray, about a conspiracy involving the safety of a new nuclear reactor run by Lloyd Hooks, played by ….However he is assassinated by the hitman, …. as Bill Smoke, before getting the chance to give Luisa documents. She investigates leading to a meeting with Tom Hanks as Issac Sachs, who then gives her a copy of Rufus’ report.  


Present and Future Lifetimes


In the United Kingdom, 2012, a 65-year old publisher, … as Timothy Cavendish, voluntarily checks into a nursing home to avoid being killed by his gangster author’s (now in prison for publicly killing a critic) associates after receiving a windfall. Being held prisoner at the home, he finds a way to escape. He also keeps having dreams about Frobisher’s Cloud Atlas Sextet and the future of clone sweatshops. 


Genetically-engineered fabricants, or clones, in Neo Seoul (Korea) in 2144, are forced to do mediocre work without pay or proper living arrangements until … as Sonmi-451 (played by Doona Bae), decided to break free and flee. She is helped by Commander Hae-Joo Chang (Jim Sturgess), leader of the rebel group “Union”. The group reveled to her that fabricants (that are believed to have been promoted) are killed and “recycled” into food for future fabricants.   


At the Big Island, dated to be “106 winters after The Fall” or in 2321, primitive societies made a come-back after most of humanity has died during “The Fall”.  One society called “The Prescients”, is holding remnants of technology from before The Fall. Another society, primitive, is the home of Zachry (Tom Hanks) and his family, “The Valley”. His tribesman worship Sonmi as a Goddess. Meronym, a Prescient, visits The Valley in search of The Cloud Atlas, a communication station that is able to send messages to Earth’s colonies. Decades later, Zachry is the one telling the stories of all the lifetimes to his grandchildren on a colony of Earth on another planet. 


Visual Effects and Music

Cloud Atlas is a German drama and science fiction joyride with fantastic time piece sets. Environments catering to these eras are very adaptable to the tone of the particular lifetime. I felt I was moving with the characters on their journey. Particular sets that stood out included Neo Seoul and The Cloud Atlas station on the Big Island. The musical score, nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score, went hand-in-hand with character spiritual connections providing a mixed blend of classical talent from the 3 composers and orchestra-enhanced emotional  scenes. 


Nothing short of EPIC


[pullquote_right]”The people we meet, the influences we have – we have the power to change the world.”[/pullquote_right] Its the visual backdrop of how life is, can be, have always been and will always be – a series of lifetimes crossing with soul-bound loves. “We are bound to others, past and present. With every kindness, we birth our future.” Cloud Atlas spiritual themes capture the very essence of a humanity’s journey and why they truly fight for freedom. They fight for personal, impersonal and revolutionary changes. Why do we keep making the same mistakes over and over and throughout lifetimes? It’s because we haven’t changed spiritually or mentally. Cloud Atlas made me think about my journey – how it started, where am I on the growth map, and how I can keep improving as a person and as a contributor to nature – while enjoying some science fiction drama. This film made my Top 10 Best Films of 2012.


[box_dark]Second Opinion

In order to explain this movie, you must open your mind and consider the idea of reincarnation. The soul travels through different time periods with a sense of familiarity from their previous encounters. Then also channel your inner Sherlock Holmes to pay attention to plot detail, which actor is playing whom in what time period. This movie spans between seven different points of time with different protagonists.
That could be a lot to ask for from general audiences. This movie could be simple if it was in chronological order from 1800-2300. But this is the Wachoskwski’s, people! They made epic films like the Matrix and V for Vendetta without conventional story telling. To ask them to simplify the story, it would be a travesty. These characters’ lives are diverse and have different scenarios going on. I like the way the storytelling was done. Could there have been some more editing done? Absolutely! But I was engaged from beginning to end.
To say that this movie sucked because you did not understand it; should be on the “worst list”. It should be given serious thought. If you feel the writing is not good enough, then we have something to discuss. If you are confused, it is okay to ask questions and watch it again to get a better idea. But to be ignorant and say it sucks is unfair.

~Vincent Vansulis