Movie Review: Cloud Atlas (2012)

Posted: November 8, 2013 in Drama
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CLOUD ATLAS

In 1849 Adam Ewing (Jim Stugess) goes on a journey on a slave ship.  His father-in-law, Haskell Moore, (Hugo Weaving) makes a lot of money from the slave trade.  When Adam feels empathy for  a slave on the ship, Autua  (David Gyasi), Dr Henry Goose (Tom Hanks) tries to kill him.  Does he succeed?

In 1936, Robert Frobisher (Ben Wishaw) is a gay music composer in love with Rufus Sixsmith (James D”Arcy) Frobisher wants to work with Vyvan Ayers, (Jim Broadbent) on his musical master opus, “Cloud Atlas Sextet” and make himself famous in the process.  Robert sleeps with Ayers’ wife, Jocasta (Halle Berry), but is distraught that he can’t spend his life with Sixsmith.  He writes to Sixsmith that he is going to kill himself, does he do it?

In 1973, a young reporter, Luisa Ray (Halle Berry) is covering a story about the dangers of nuclear power.  She gets stuck on an elevator with a much older Rufus Sixsmith, who’ a physicist now.  Ray also meets Isaac Sachs (Hanks) who takes her on a tour of the plant.  They feel a connection to each other and plan to meet later.  Sixsmith ties to get a damning report about the plant.  Plant manager, Lloyd Hooks (Hugh Grant) wants Ray and Sachs out of the way and hires Bill Smoke (Hugo Weaving to kill Luisa Ray.  Does he succeed?

In 2012, Timothy Cavendish (Broadbent) is a book publisher, trying to sell the latest book of author Dermot Hoggins (Hanks) Hoggins is a brutish type who threatens a reviewer who wrote a bad review of his book.  The book becomes a best-seller, but Hoggins wants more money from Cavendish.  Cavendish needs to escape because Cavendish doesn’t have money.  Timothy turns to his brother Denhome, but Denhome traps Timothy in a nursing home, run by a sadistic nurse, named Nokes (Weaving)

In the year 2144, in Neo Seoul, a fabricant, a clone bred for servitude named Sonmi. (Doona Bae) Soonmi is tired of conforming to a consumer based society.  Sonmi finds Hae Joo Chang (Sturgess) a human born in a womb, they fall in love but can they escape this authoritarian society?

In 2346, humans living on a planet that is not earth, live in a very primitive fashion.  Zachary (Hanks) is trying to protect his family from an intra-tribal war.  The other chief is called the Kona Chief, (Grant)  and he is a bloodthirsty cannibal.  Suddenly a stranger named Meronym (Berry)  appears from a different part of the planet.  She is technologically advanced, and tells Zachary to follow her, but there is a voice in Zachary’s head (Weaving) that tells Zachary to kill Meronym, does he listen to that voice?

I did not like Cloud Atlas.  The basic themes were alright, freedom from an autocratic society, and non-conformity in the face of intense pressure to conform.  But then it strays into past lives, and new age doctrine, and I’m sorry, but that turns me off.  The stories are all supposed to be interconnected , but the connections are tenuous at best.

The vignettes borrow heavily from other movies First off the interconnectedness of the storylines reminded me of Babel, the  journey on the slave ship is reminiscent of Amistad, the Halle Berry investigating a nuclear accident was like Coffey meets China Syndrome, the nursing home story feels like  One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, the futuristic Korean story is Blade Runner meets 2046 meets Soylent Green, and the thing is all the original movies that this movie borrows from are better than this movie. The fourth and fifth stories are my favorites, because the fourth one is good comedy relief and the fifth one is good science fiction, but 2/6th of a good movie is a pretty bad movie.

The movie is written by the Wachowski siblings, and has all the strengths and weaknesses of their Matrix movies, some good science fiction and a lot of mushy sentimentality that boils down to the phrase “Why can’t we all get along?”  Cloud Atlas was a book, so I will blame some of the shortcomings of the movie on the book, but since I never read the book, I don’t know where the book goes off the rails. And three hours is too damn long for any movie.

The acting is good, but not by the big stars, Hanks and Berry just embarrass themselves trying different accents and hiding behind prosthetic make-up.  Broadbent, Ben Wishaw, and James D’Arcy are very good. Doona Bae is a revelation, until she tries to play a Mexican woman in the 70’s, then she embarrasses herself.  Similarly, Wishaw and Darcy embarrass themselves playing Koreans, it is cringewothy. Hugo Weaving is great, but he is always great.

There is nudity and violence, so keep the kids away, and maybe Cloud Atlas will put the adults to sleep.

Cloud Atlas:  A roadmap to nowhere.

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