Title: Cloud Atlas
Country: Germany, USA, Hong Kong, Singapore
Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi, Mystery
Music: Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek, Tom Tykwer
Cinematography: Frank Griebe, John Toll
Zhou Xun 周迅
Brody Nicholas Lee
Zhu Zhu 朱珠
Sylvestra Le Touzel
If the source novel from David Mitchell is claimed to be “the most impossible one to be adapted to a feature film”, the true grit behind the director trio alone merits some accolade. But the critical box-office feedback firmly suggests they will never retrieve the gargantuan budget (over 100,000,000$ for production and nothing else), while being under the barrage of divisive reviews from the critics, an ominous before-watch hunch could never be dissolved until I finally watched it on the super-big screen (not as large as an IMAX) in the cinema, and I must confess it comes out far “stunning” than I had expected.
Graphically bountiful visual stunts of 6 inter-linked stories which stretch across different eras (from primitive tribe to a clone-ed future world) certainly has paid off its lengthy running time, 172 minutes passed by fleetingly with more anticipation was still hanging there when the ending credits inconveniently started to roll. CLOUD ATLAS is a cleverly designed omnibus, using same actors playing multiple roles in different sub-stories, consistently establishes a sense of reincarnation and an almost sacred disposition to influence a more elusive and conscience-contingent point-of-view into its viewer’s subliminal comprehension. While being unfamiliar with David’s novel, a first viewing may impede myself from a more comprehensive understanding of the various characters’ inner liaisons, at least, it has accomplished a diverting and edifying piece of cannon to channel any soul willing to yield to a cobweb of myths and karma.
But, as one would expect from exploiting an astronomical range and sophisticated plot-piling, the sub-stories unfortunately have an uneven exhibition, to divide individually, Jim Broadbent’s breaking out of the home-for-the-elderly is the jolliest of all; the ill-fated destiny of Ben Wishaw’s prodigy composer has much more pathos than other episodes; Halle Berry’s contemporary thriller of an individual fighting the evil energy company is the stalest and has an uncertain bathos in the end; the troubled tribesman Tom Hanks’s prophesy adventure in the bleak future has an insidious devil inside to conquer while his more civilized outer-space allies has a more straightforward mission to ignite; the sea journey of Jim Burgess’ young lawyer in the 19th century has its suspense hanging until a hackneyed rescue from a black slave; Doona Bae’s anti-Neo (the savior) sacrifice has the most transcendent visual tactic to rally its award-worthy buzz but the reverberations of the doctrinal speech is a moot point.
Actors-wise, Jim Broadbent is superbly versatile apart from his usual comic comfort zone, who is my current Supporting Actor win and Ben Whishaw could never miss his chance to embroider a heartrending story with his own vulnerability and pure devotion. Doona Bae has to tackle with a much more difficult role as the Robo-clone, but out of her poker-faced complexion, her key show comes off wonderfully and very much dilutes any deja vu suspicions of her episode.
So, ending my review in one sentence, CLOUD ATLAS is an epic venture with (quite a few) narrative cliches, but is still able to make most of Hollywood commodities pale in comparison.