Cloud Atlas

October 28, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Posted in 2012 | Leave a comment
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 ◊ ◊ ◊ ½

I find it impossible to know how to review this film for those who have not read the book, particularly as my primary enjoyment of the film came from being reminded of a book that I dearly loved.  Directors Tom Tykwer (“Run Lola Run”) and The Wachowskis (“The Matrix”) eagerly try to hit all the right notes and do a fairly good job of capturing the grand scale, emotional resonance and the epic nature of the book.  The different stories all have different tones in the book (eg pulpy detective noir, snarky British comedy, morality tale, love story, sci-fi action) and the directors capture those modes in the film.  However, the book had a russian doll structure of each story descending into the next and then back out again that was largely lost in the film.  This decision to splice all the stories up, lead to structural, tonal and plot confusions that might have been frustrating to those who did not read the book. Also distracting were all of the reoccurring actors.  While it was a clever way (and far less subtle than the book) of reinforcing the idea of reincarnation, it became a sort of Where’s Waldo game, where the audience was trying to figure out, “is that Asian man actually Halle Berry?” and so on.  It was fun to see actors transform themselves from story to story (Tom Hanks was especially good at it) but the racial and gender transformations were often particularly distracting.  The film was visually beautiful, clever, funny and had the same endearing message of human vulnerability and connectedness that I loved in the book, however, I think the film makers traded story coherence in order to achieve those larger themes.

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