Saturday, January 4, 2014

Cloud Atlas (2012)

Links: TVTropes, Wikipedia, IMDB (7.6).

It's an historical, star-crossed thrillasatirical cyberpunkalyptic... turducken.
— "Brows Held High: Cloud Atlas", Kyle "Oancitizen" Kallgren

Haskell Moore: There is a natural order to this world, and those who try to upend it do not fare well. […] No matter what you do it will never amount to anything more than a single drop in a limitless ocean.
Adam Ewing: What is an ocean but a multitude of drops?
— "Cloud Atlas" (film)

I'm a sucker for narrative theme: bait your hook with well-defined characters and a strong, internally consistent theme and you'll catch me every time.  It's the reason I count Tykwer's Run Lola Run as one of my favorite movies.  Thus it's not a surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed Cloud Atlas, a film of six stories united by theme.  Don't get me wrong, the film has problems: the multi-role stunt casting is distracting (especially Tom Hanks); the age- and race-changing makeup is nestled snugly in the Uncanny Valley and at times uncomfortably racist; the "bury your gays" and "true artists are bipolar" tropes are invoked with no awareness of the harm they do; the use of supernatural elements (prophecy and hints at reincarnation) are undeveloped and wholly superfluous to the film; and the individual stories are chopped together in a way that makes it hard to see how they relate to each other.  (This last, a change made for the film, is the most damning of all.  I found it immensely helpful to have seen the Brows Held High review beforehand, particularly the bit from 6:55 to 7:40 that explicitly calls out the symmetries between the stories.)  But despite the problems, the straightforward but well-developed theme ties the film's parts together, crescendoing to conclusion in the dialogue quoted above.  Score: 3 stars out of 4.

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