As much as it loses most of its potential meaning and power as it goes along, Cloud Atlas is still a brave and interesting bit of filmmaking.
You have to admire the boldness of this film; it takes an ‘unfilmable’ novel, fills it’s cast list with names such as Tom Hanks, Hugo Weaving, Ben Whishaw, Susan Sarandon, and Jim Broadbent, has them all playing multiple characters of differing genders across space and time, and then tries to explore themes as high reaching as the meaning of life. It’s no surprise really that it falls a bit short. And yet it’s how close it comes to achieving it’s aims which makes this film really interesting.
Considering the film had three directors (the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer) it really shouldn’t come across as cohesively as it ends up doing – and that’s regardless of the fact that it also deals with multiple stories, characters, and time periods. It had me impressed for a long time at just how unified it felt, that was until the third act where it became apparent that there really wasn’t anything holding this film up. That it had focused so much attention upon it’s complex presentation, that it had forgotten to actually add depth. The novel I have been told investigates the process of reading, which makes sense because I felt whilst watching the film that it may be trying to be self-reflective at times, but unfortunately it doesn’t manage it except in a few, half formed moments. If that had been developed the we could well have had a better film on our hands, but as it is it’s just a fairly impressively woven together tale that ultimately carries little significance.
Despite all of that negativity, there are a couple of performances collected here that are worthy of note. Tom Hanks does pretty well at surprising us with some very varied roles and he is a lot of fun to watch across the different storylines. But it’s Ben Whishaw who really delivers, and in fact puts several of the other cast members to shame. He’s easily an actor to watch over the next few years or so, which makes it a shame that such talent and promise amounts to relatively little here. It’s a good looking, and often entertaining film, so it’s probably worth checking out if it interests you, but it’s a long way away from being the future classic it could have been.
What is the film’s greatest strength?
The bravery and sheer audacity of its approach and what it tries to achieve.
Its greatest weakness?
The way it overreaches and ends up feeling hollow and unfulfilled.
Would I see it again?
Someone might be able to talk me into it as a second viewing may well be quite rewarding, but I’m in no rush.
Thank you for reading, leave your thoughts in the comment box below!