MANILA, Philippines – Based on the Booker Prize-shortlisted novel by David Mitchell of the same title, Cloud Atlas is a soaring (at times unwieldy) but ultimately moving contemplation on the interconnection of people’s lives, the possibility of reincarnation and the reverberation of actions through time.
Directors Lana Wachowski and Andy Wachowski of the Matrix trilogy with Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) wrestled with the almost impossible task of translating the book to the screen, what with its 6 story lines transpiring in different periods — from a colonial expedition in the Pacific Ocean in 1849 to the barbaric setting of a post-apocalyptic Earth.
Instead of treating them as independent vignettes (whose connections are suggested rather than implied), the directors decided to interweave the narrative strands, shuttling to and from scenes, creating a web of associations among the characters and their unintended but inevitable effects on each other.
A halved book written by an American abolitionist, for instance, inspires an English composer decades after, while a call to freedom by a clone from Neo Seoul is broadcast throughout the rest of humanity now living in distant planets.
The element of recurrence is further emphasized by the multiple roles played by actors Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw and Susan Sarandon.
While Hanks is unmissable whether he plays as a ship doctor, a nuclear scientist or an Irish thug-turned-author, Berry’s transformations are more dramatic. One scene she is a reporter from the ‘70s out to expose a nuclear cover-up; next she is a white trophy wife for a respected, aging composer.
Just like in the Matrix trilogy, the line between good and evil is clearly demarcated, with the characters in the good camp having a comet-shaped birthmark. Whether facing a corrupt corporate official, an actual political system or an inner demon (named Old Georgie), the characters are asked to risk their lives in the preservation of truth and personal freedom — big themes that are well dramatized by the convincing portrayal of the ensemble cast.
Watch the trailer of ‘Cloud Atlas’ here:
Cloud Atlas becomes most engaging when it ventures into sci-fi territory, which is the story set in Neo Seoul in the year 2144.
After the execution of a fellow fabricant (clone) of her sister worker in a fast food joint, Sonmi-451 (Bae) escapes with Union revolutionary Hae-Joo Chang (Sturgess) who, through Somni’s testimony, wants to liberate the city from the totalitarian regime.
In an octane-filled scene, the two are chased by the regime’s soldiers as they fantastically weave on what seem to be roads suspended as electromagnetic fields.
It is easy to be tangled up with the evident — but not exactly nuanced — philosophical yarn of the film that one is in the danger of zoning out from its scenes of sheer tenderness and unforced levity. Take for instance the hide-and-seek dance between two lovers in Scotland moments before one of them kills himself or when 4 elderly people heart-stoppingly flee from a care facility.
These scenes are more successful than the voice-over narration and clunky dialogue in encapsulating the movie’s tender humanity.
Those who have been clamoring, amid the rom-coms and formula-driven flicks, for an alternative cinematic experience may very well find it in Cloud Atlas.
At almost 3 hours, it will surely stretch the patience and imagination of the viewer.
Those who have read the book will have the advantage of knowing the author’s original plot intentions but the movie, in itself, is a complete, multi-layered world, full of narrative leaps and occasions of brilliance. – Rappler.com
‘Cloud Atlas’ opens in select SM theaters on December 5.