Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Book to Film Review: Cloud Atlas

About the film
Cloud Atlas is drama film that was released at the cinema in the UK on 22nd February 2013. The film is based on the book of the same name by David Mitchell. Cloud Atlas is rated 15 and has a run time of 172 minutes.

Cloud Atlas is a film with many plots. The film follows six different storylines all set during a different time and in a different place – the earliest being the late nineteenth century in the South Pacific Ocean and the latest being on ‘Big Island’ set ‘106 winters after The Fall’ which is apparently the year 2321. In each story, Cloud Atlas reveals how past lives can affect the future and how everyone is intertwined at some point in their lives.

What I thought
Cloud Atlas was one of the films that I was most looking forward to seeing this year and I ended up seeing it only a few days after release at the cinema. Although I hadn’t read the book, and was told how confusing the plots were to follow, I didn’t care. I had to know what it was all about.

Cloud Atlas opens with a quite old man, Zachry, in the plot set in the furthest future. Here, we see him as a man with tattoos on his face, a long scar down one side and him telling a story about how the world works. It doesn’t take long before we are thrown into the late 1800s, seeing Adam Ewing, a lawyer, completing a business deal on the Chatham Islands and then on to another story, and then another, and another. I really loved how each of the different timelines was introduced, only getting a snippet of each before the film goes on to explain a different aspect of what is happening. Each of the timelines are introduced quickly and really well, letting the audience know what is going on without giving away too much.

As Cloud Atlas spans quite some time in the different timelines, the settings are all very different. We have scenes set on a ship in the middle of the ocean, we get early 1900s Cambridge and Edinburgh, we get 1970s America, present day UK, futuristic Korea and then a world so far ahead in the future that everything has changed. Although dubbed as a ‘unfilmable’ film, The Wachowskis do an absolutely remarkable job of fusing everything together. I really enjoyed the contrasts between each time, and most especially, the settings. My favourites were definitely during the late 1800s on the ship and the futuristic Korea, both of which couldn’t be more different. What I think this film gives is a stunning visual display of the world in its many forms, showing what has been and what could be.

As for performances, I am always a little weary of films with such a big ensemble, with so many big names after the likes of Movie 43 and New Year’s Eve. However, Cloud Atlas gets it just right. Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and Jim Sturgess star as the three cast members in every single sequence and what great jobs they all do as well. However, I will say that although each was good in every role they played, for me they all stood out in one particular one as well. Hanks excels as Zachry, a man living on ‘Big Island’ with his sister and niece. He lives in a place where language is different, a place where crazy cannibals run wild and somewhere with quite basic living conditions. Berry excels as Luisa Rey, a female journalist in the 1970s, struggling to find decent work and desperately wants to do as well as her father. Jim Sturgess plays Hae-Joo Chang in futuristic Korea, responsible for rescuing Sonmi~451, a cloned server girl. While his futuristic looks do help the role, Sturgess played a character I couldn’t take my eyes away from. Here though, his performance is only as good as it was because of Doona Bae who plays Sonmi~451. Their presence and chemistry on screen was explosive and this was by far my favourite timeline to watch.

Although I did have my favourites, each cast member was very believable in each role that they played. The make-up and costumes were so fantastic throughout that sometimes, it was quite hard to see who some of the actors were. Cloud Atlas challenges the idea that certain actors can only play certain roles and this film turns everything on its head. Yes, there are some stereotypes in there as well though. But, just when you think you know who everyone is going to be, you see a male actor as a woman, someone playing a character of a different race. Cloud Atlas is a film with one of the best make-up and costume set ups that I have seen in a long time, which only enhances the beauty of each setting.

While I was prepared to watch a really confusing film, I don’t think that’s what I went to see at all. Yes, for some people the six timelines may be a bit much but I don’t think they were hard to follow at all. As each timeline is set somewhere and sometime completely different to any of the others, they are clearly distinguished from one another. I found it extremely easy to remember which character came from which timeline and what was happening in each. However, I can see how this would be confusing if you were to read the book as there are no visuals to help you out. I thought that the way in which each timeline was eventually intertwined was great and it really helped to show what the film and the plot was really about – that Everything Is Connected. You really get a sense that every action you make can affect something else later on in life and it also makes you wonder what could have affected where you are today.

Cloud Atlas is one of the most visually stunning films I have seen in a long time but it also has the cast and plots to back this up. I can’t wait to get my own copy on DVD when it is released. 

1 comment:

  1. I really want to see this film! I've had the book on my shelf unread for YEARS but I've always been put off by it because I've heard it's confusing. I heard they changed the layout of the film to help correct that.

    I'm hoping that by watching the film it'll be easier for me to finally get to the book! :)