Friday, October 26, 2012

In ‘Cloud Atlas,’ What One Does Today Lives On ...

“CLOUD Atlas” will likely go down as one of the year’s most provocative, misunderstood and critically acclaimed films. It reportedly received a 10-minute standing ovation after its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last month.

The sprawling work, with three directors and a big-name cast headed by Halle Berry and Tom Hanks, opens in North America today. (See video above.)

Some critics love it with all capital letters and bold type. Others have called “Cloud Atlas, ” directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski, laughable, as well as well-meaning but ultimately a mess.

“Confusing,” pronounced a film companion of Yours Truly whom I ran into last night right after she sat through its almost three hours (164 minutes for North America; 171 for the UK). Incidentally, there is no intermission.

Halle Berry and Keith David. Photos courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

“It started out in the present-day,” Companion said, her eyes glassy with bewilderment or suffering the effects of sitting in a dark room looking at a bright screen for what’s considered nearly half a regular work day in the United States. “Then it went back in time to the 1800s, then it became futuristic. I didn’t understand it. I don’t think I want to see it again.”

“Once was enough," asked I.
Companion simply nodded in response.

Doona Be.

Film critic Roger Ebert pronounced that he simply has to see “Cloud Atlas” three times. He’s already seen it twice for those who may have lost count.

It’s not much of a stretch to imagine that “Cloud Atlas,” which was shot in Hong Kong Germany, Singapore, the UK, United States and other locales, could cause such varied responses. The film is based on David Mitchell’s critically acclaimed and award-winning 2004 novel of the same name.

“Cloud Atlas” employs six different stories that unfold in different places and different eras to make the point that our actions – for better or worse – have consequences that impact the past, present and future. These actions have the power to work for good or evil.

The six stories each have a narrator or protagonist. The first story starts in the 19th-century South Pacific and the sixth story is set at a time far into the future. Initially, the tales work on a continuum. Each main character in the story that follows reflects on the story just ended. Then gears shift rather dramatically as the stories end but go back in time – not forward any longer – ending where it began.

Susan Sarandon and Jim Broadbent.

No doubt, all of this back and forth will give some viewers whiplash – and yes – may cause annoyance, confusion and, delight. The actors (and makeup people) sure work overtime and over time. Virtually all have multiple roles that also transcend gender, ethnicity and age. Susan Sarandon, whose appearance is something of a cameo, plays four characters; Jim Broadbent plays five. Hugh Grant, HB, TH and Hugo Weaving have six roles.

Tom Hanks and Jim Broadbent.

Another not so surprising observation about “Cloud Atlas” is that it opened in time for Oscar consideration. Taking into account its reception at Toronto and among the major critics, it will likely receive some nominations. And perhaps some winners, too.

“Cloud Atlas” is rated R for "violence, language, sexuality/nudity, and some drug use." Visit to learn more about "Cloud Atlas."

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VEVLYN'S PEN: The Wright take on life by Vevlyn Wright is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License .
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