At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Cloud Atlas “2012”

MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller Drama/ Stars: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, James D’Arcy, Zhou Xun, Keith David, David Gyasi, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, Robert Fyfe, Alistair Petrie/ Runtime: 172 minutes

I feel I must say that I didn’t finish viewing this film no more than 24 hours ago and yet my heart is still racing and my brain is still in awe. This is because I definitely feel that I have just sat through one of the most brilliant and extremely well-designed films I have ever seen in my life. Indeed I feel almost ashamed in a way that I am not providing this film with a perfect score, but honestly after watching this a few more times that might just change. A fact that is because first and foremost this is a movie that I strongly desire to see as many times as I need to. Not just to locate more of the numerous hidden details sprinkled throughout, but also because this film is insanely rewatchable. Because this is a film that I need to watch again. With that being said where does honestly one begin reviewing this movie? Well I guess it should be said that if you are ok with abandoning the typical way of telling a narrative where the majority of scenes in a film follow one after the one in a set period of time rather than fulfill a very specific purpose, then this is a film that you should look into. Indeed this is a movie that trust me when I say that if you try to figure out what is going on right from the get-go you will be absolutely bewildered. I say that because this is one narrative which one can’t make sense of until the conclusion thus making this film much more rewarding as a result. Indeed I could feel the possible impact that the ending was going to have on me as the film played out only to see my wildest dreams actually be granted once the film came to an end.

Thus I think it is safe to say that Cloud Atlas does not exist in even the slightest to go with the flow and bow to the stereotypical way to format a narrative nor does it strive in any way to make the majority of audiences happy. Rather this is just plain and simply something to experience that I promise will be a part of you long after you have been through it. Indeed, for all intents and purposes, the Wachowski Siblings and Tom Tykwer have managed to head out on a epic journey and, much to our happiness, have decided to invite the viewer to come along. The intriguing thing about this epic journey however, is that this one is not familiar in the slightest or one that honestly makes a lot of sense yet that’s what makes it exciting. Thus if you want that excitement as well as the opportunity to witness something new, unique, and that gives you concepts and questions that you will ponder for a long time afterward, then definitely view Cloud Atlas.

The plot is as follows: I must be honest with you fellow movie lover: This is a hard film to summarize. That is because this film really consists of six seemingly unconnected narratives that all take place across six vastly different periods of time though I suppose I shall try all the same to try and convey at the least a little bit about each story. We start in the year 1849 and follow the misadventures of an American attorney named Adam Ewing as he mysteriously falls ill whilst crossing the Pacific and in the process befriends a runaway slave and comes under the care of an extremely questionable doctor. Then we jump over to 1936 where we see a fame-seeker named Robert Frobisher weasel his way into a position as the main aid to a world-renown composer while, on the side, silently putting together a masterpiece of his own. Next is the year 1973 in the city of San Francisco where we cross paths with a small-time journalist named Luisa Rey who, after a chance meeting with a nuclear physicist, uncovers damning evidence that there might be something fishy going on at the local nuclear plant and decides to investigate. We then move on to 2012 in London where a publisher named Timothy Cavendish finds himself mixed up with the wrong sort and accepts his brother’s invitation to go into hiding at what appears to be a quaint little hotel only to learn all is not what it seems. We then leap forward into the future in the year 2144 where we witness a clone that’s purpose is to do the “menial work” in a popular restaurant in the city of Neo-Seoul finding herself freed from her servant life and inspired to make a stand after being shown the terrifying reality regarding the existence of clones just like her. Finally the movie takes us all the way to the year 2321, and follows a man named Zachry who is part of a primitive tribe living on Hawaii following a catastrophe on a global scale as he seeks redemption for past deeds by embarking on a quest with a new-found friend to the top of a mountain whilst also facing off against the Devil himself as well as a pack of murderous and vicious cannibals….

Now this particular group of six distinct narratives are all told in a style that manages to overlap in that either we get a scene from one story which is then followed up with a scene from another one of the stories. Indeed there are moments where we don’t stay with one story for long, but then there are other instances where we stay in a story for quite a while. In addition, it is also worth noting that each story also manages to showcase a distinctly unique genre in the world of film. For instances one story is a comedy, another is a drama, another seems like a thriller akin to The China Syndrome, and then there are 2 that literally seem ripped straight from Mad Max and The Matrix. Indeed by utilizing all these different genres in one film, it really manages to conjure up quite the thought process in the moviegoer as they attempt to figure out just how in the world all these disparate narratives are all connected. Yet it is in the moments when things begin to fall into place that we see the Wachowskis and Tykwer begin to use parallel action to drive the narrative forward. Thus what happens in one era will begin to reflect in another era or unfurl the story. What is happening in one time period will mirror what is happening in another time period or manage to start putting the pieces together. When this happens the directors then begin to jump around quite a bit so that a particular moment can have more of a potent impact than any one given story could really provide on its own. Thus it is the utilization of similarities from a concept perspective that really begins bringing everything together.

For instance one of these concepts is the fact that each narrative deals with an individual who finds himself doing a particular thing that really goes against the way things are normally done in an effort to try and make something that is more incredible than anything like it has been up till that point. Indeed it’s this potent concept that is represented in each narrative which makes this movie so potent on an emotional level especially when everything starts to be uncovered. Thus, due to the manner of telling the overarching narrative, this is in all honesty one of the more original movies I have had the pleasure of seeing. Indeed the manner in which the narrative does not really stick with the typical ways to telling a narrative by bouncing between the different genres of film does a wonderful job of retaining your interest. Yet the manner in which this film’s plot is told is not just the only item that helps make this one of the more daring and ambitious films I’ve had the pleasure of seeing. The other item would most assuredly have to be in regards to how it works in the acting department.

Speaking of the acting department this is now a great time to bring up the fact that I definitely feel that this film is in possession of a truly iconic cast that all manage to bring their absolute best to the silver screen and really provide this film with absolutely phenomenal performances. Indeed despite the fact that this movie contains quite a few characters to follow throughout, you are still able to form bonds of the emotional variety right from the get-go. In addition, this film also manages to add a degree of fun unlike any other movie I know in the form of getting the audience engaged in a game of “guess who?”. This is because the cast involved in this film all portray more than one character as this film goes from era to era. Heck there are even characters that provide the actors with the ability to play both against type as well as gender. Yet even though the characters played by the actors are quite distinct, there are common factors to the distinct roles that each actor manages to portray. Indeed there are moments where it’s a cliché like the fact that every Hugo Weaving character is a villain and other moments it’s more complex like the fact that all of Tom Hanks’ characters seem to be in pursuit of some solitary interest be it love or self-survival. Indeed this film’s casting of people of different races and genders playing other races and genders respectively manages to do a wonderful job of showcasing one of the more distinct messages the film tries to convey in that all human beings are truly equal no matter their age, race, or gender. Thus having said all that I have about casting, I think it should be now quite crystal clear that every actor had to be at the peak of their ability and thankfully in the majority of the parts in this film they are able to rise to the challenge. With that being said though, I definitely think it should be noted that, out of the entire cast, particular praise must be given to Hugh Grant and Tom Hanks for doing phenomenal in roles that are completely not what they are known or used to portraying. Indeed even though Hanks seems to struggle a little bit with distinguishing between his usual “hero roles” in this, I still feel that shouldn’t take away from the wonderful work he manages to accomplish in this.

All in all, Cloud Atlas is a film unlike any other. Indeed this is not only an odyssey that will take you to destinations and times that you never imagined, but it also desires to teach the audience concepts that I personally feel we all should know and cherish. Concepts that deal with not only freedom, but also the fact that a person’s distinct and individual actions really do have the potential to really truly affect not just ourselves, but other people as well throughout the years and years to come. Indeed if anything I guess what I am trying to say is that we as humanity really all are part of a distinct and unlike any other network. Ultimately however, I feel that due to there being a lot that could be discussed that you should just take the time to give this movie a shot. Indeed there are a few tiny bumps along the close to 3 hour road this film travels, but the film’s narrative style manages to obscure them quite wonderfully. Indeed no narrative manages to take away more time from the others any more than any one character manages to do so and the narrative framework and the pacing help push the movie forward at just the right pace. Indeed it really is sad to me that this movie was not better recognized from a commercial perspective. I say that because at the end of the day Cloud Atlas is an absolutely incredible accomplishment that serves as not only an engaging mix of several different genres of film, but is also easily one of the finest films I had the pleasure and distinct privilege of seeing not only in the year 2012, but every year since now and always. On a scale of 1-5 I give Cloud Atlas a solid 4 out of 5.