HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Cloud Atlas
HTS Overall Score:84
I went into “Cloud Atlas” with torn thoughts on the movie. It seems to be one of those movies that is divisive in the film community. Some people, both critics and viewers alike, have given it the moniker of “the worst film of 2012” and seem to find very little redeeming value in the unorthodox storytelling method. Others tout it as the greatest film ever told and on and on the arguments go. Based off of a book by David Mitchell, Cloud atlas is tale comprised of six individual stores, each seemingly unrelated to the next. I won’t dare to summarize each of these six stories, for just describing them would only confuse a reader. “Cloud Atlas” is a prime example of a story that needs to be viewed, rather than read ABOUT (at least for the film).
To say that this is a juggernaut of an undertaking is putting it lightly. The film clocks in at a few minutes shy of three hours long and is most definitely a slow burn. I’m a fan of slow burn dramas, and “Cloud Atlas” is very slow burning indeed. So slow burning at times that I almost feared that the Wachowskis and director Tom Tykwer were going nowhere with the plots. It’s almost an hour and a half into the film that it picks up and we start to see just why these six stories were chosen to twine together. Each of the six stories has their own individual characters, their own individual plots and nemesis associated with them. Even the actual theme SEEMS to be different. An oil scandal in the 1970’s, a 1930’s tale of a composer with a checkered past, an old folks home set in the early 21st century and several futuristic tales of woe and post-apocalyptic origins. After a time I started to see the vein, the tapestry thread, so to speak, that wove all of these very different tales together. That thread was the thread of oppression and the trials and tribulations associated with freedom. Being a believer in evil always being a constant in this world I see startling resemblances to real life situations. Human beings have had a disheartening ability to oppress others, whether it be for racial differences, just being an “outsider”, or for having a different political point of view. Even something as simple as vengeance or coveting what is not rightfully ours. However, being that great evil can be done in this world does not diminish the human desire to fight for freedom. Slaves have fought for centuries to be free from their masters and debtors don’t just accept their chains, but rather strive for separation from their burden of debt. Humans naturally fight against oppression, even if they have to submit for short periods of time. It is in our nature, in our blood to do so.
One complaint that I’ve seen flying around is that the stories really have nothing in common. I beg to shine a different light on this statement. The stories themselves are not MEANT to share a comparable storyline or share the same characters even (for the most part), however, if you pay close attention you will see the burgeoning of the butterfly effect, or ripples in a pond so to speak. Each story leaves a legacy, chronologically, for the next. Every single main character in the stories are influenced by the passing on of knowledge from the last. I almost didn’t notice them, but you see stories, autobiographies and possessions pass hands from one story to the next, influencing that character and connecting another piece of the tapestry together. The Little boy in the 1970’s nuclear cover up story rights a novel based upon those events that influences our aging publisher in his struggle against a spiteful brother and so on and so forth. It is for these little nuggets that I am a firm believer that this movie needs to be seen at least twice to be understood and even more times for a more complete understanding of what the purpose and theme that the director was trying to accomplish.
The unconventional story telling is both exhilarating and tiring at the same time. Told in one to 15 minute increments each story is told in pieces, with quick cuts to another story without warning. Fragmented as it is, it allows us to jump around, non-linearly and allow us to experience what the heroes were experience without showing us a concrete ending for each story until they ALL wrap up together, thus allowing the true purpose of the film to remain hidden until the last moments. At the same time, this unconventional storytelling can get rather confusing in a three hour film. Sometimes I had to rewind to a certain scene just remind myself of an earlier encounter in the story due to all the flitting about.
I will have to say that whoever provided the makeup and prosthetics for the film is now a millionaire. Every main character from each story comprise the main characters for EVERY one of the six stories, just with different makeup and different ages and prosthetics to give them new identities. This technique was interesting to say none the least and while it looked a bit fake at times, I don’t think that it was every meant to pass as realism, but rather visually display the similar trials, tribulations and goals portrayed in each individual plot. Unfortunately I don’t believe the movie was as concise or allowed the viewer to grasp the threads tying each story together as easily as the book, but it is a valiant effort in storytelling (albeit flawed) and a sumptuous feast of visuals that only the Wachowski’s could have conceived.
Rated R for violence, language, sexuality/nudity and some drug use
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=11712[/img]I was a bit worried about the encode for the film for “Cloud Atlas” is a 3 hour film with over 1 hour of HD special features to boot and that’s a lot of time to put on one disc. Luckily for us, there’s no need to worry. Warner Brothers did a fantastic job with the 2.40:1 AVC encode. Colors are lush and brilliant, from the rich Scottish countryside to the outdoor scenes of the post-apocalyptic future. Even the deep rich darks shown in the futuristic New Seoul were popping off the screen at you. Detail is absolutely flawless and even long shots were picture perfect. Facial detail was excellent as well, but softened ever so slightly to mask the telltale signs of prosthetics used on our actors. Darks were beautiful, inky and deep they showed fantastic shadow detail even in the dead of night. Compression artifacts were a non-issue and luckily there has been no signs of digital tampering beyond the softening of a few facial shots.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=11713[/img]Being that “Cloud Atlas is a dialogue driven film don’t expect a wildly robust and thunderous sound track. There ARE several action set pieces near the end of the film and when those occur the soundstage just lights up and the surrounds are used in full force. However for most of the film, the surrounds were limited to ambient noises and the sounds of vehicles passing by. The front soundstage carried the brunt of the usage with some very well balanced dialogue and frontal usage of ambient sounds. LFE was very mild, mostly used for the score and REALLY used for the sporadic action sequences in the second half. A very well done track, that is mostly limited to just bearing the weight of dialogue more than showcasing a demo track.
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A slightly flawed, but stunning nonetheless, adaptation of the book by the same name; “Cloud Atlas” is divisive and rightfully so. It’s a storytelling style that may be off putting to certain personality types, while others will be able to see and enjoy the unique storytelling style. I personally find it to be one of the better films of the 2012 year and there was some stiff competition to boot. Totally enthralling, even at the slow spots, it gives us a peek into the human spirit and an understanding that everything we do in life as effects. Even if we are not alive to see what those effects may be. Beautifully shot and with some very well done audio and video scores I highly recommend seeing this film. Even if you end up not understanding many of the story points the visual beauty and complete style of the film is worth the viewing.
Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving
Directed by: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Written by: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish, French DD 5.1
Studio: Warner Brothers
Runtime: 172 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: May 14th, 2013
Available on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digital Download
Buy Cloud Atlast Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Rent It
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