Sunday, November 4, 2012

Cloud Atlas

Reciprocal acts of altruism between a slave (David Gyasi) and a young attorney (Jim Sturgess) on a ship set sail from a Pacific Isle in 1849, have a quasi effect, stirring a humanistic, revolutionary spirit over the course of several centuries: from a brilliant yet troubled composer's assistant (Ben Whishaw) in pre-WW2 Cambridge, to a  determined journalist (Halle Berry) in 1973 San Francisco, and through the misadventures of a failed publicist (Jim Broadbent) in the present, leading up unto a drone's (Doona Bae) dastardly bid for freedom 2144 Seoul, and concluding with the plight of an overrun tribesman (Tom Hanks) set "106 winters after The Fall." "Cloud Atlas" is a hugely ambitious adaptation of David Mitchell's 2004 novel done in collaboration between Tom Tykwer ("Run Lola Run", "Perfume") and the Wachowskis ("The Matrix", "Bound"), three kinetic and highly stylized filmmakers. Where many have found have found fault with overreaching and disconnectedness, I have found superb, engrossing modes of several different forms of storytelling made all the more fascinating by the bare threads that hold each tale together (although I could have done without one-eyed futuristic Tom Hanks jibber jabberin bout the true true). All the principal actors appear throughout the other stories in different parts (in addition to those mentioned Keith David, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, James D'Arcy, Xun Shou, and Hugo Weaving appear) and this has an often moving though sometimes off-putting effect. The stories involving Whishaw and Broadbent in 1943, Berry in 1973, and Broadbent in 2012 are told the best, but the initial one involving Sturgess and Gyasi and again with Sturgess with Bae in impending Korea are perhaps the most affecting. Avid, expansive films have a tendency to repel audience who are unwilling to think, and only seek escapism in their forms of entertainment. "Cloud Atlas" is challenging, but never unduly perplexing, and consistently engaging on a multitude of planes.