Friday, February 15, 2013

Cloud Atlas (2012)

Cloud Atlas, based on a book by David Mitchell, brilliantly interweaves six storylines with each character portraying multiple reincarnations in an intricate plot structure, set in the past, present, and future. Films of this type often struggle to include adequate character development or fail to give equal significance to each storyline in the overarching message. However, I believe that Cloud Atlas succeeds in this aspect, as each character has depth and strong motives that dictates their actions, each storyline builds in conflict followed by a satisfying conclusion, and everything is subtly connected, as stated by the film’s tagline. The film definitely leaves me pondering long afterwards, trying to trace each plot and individual as well as their correlation to each other. Although Cloud Atlas lasts three hours, I find it necessary, as the multi-layered story would have seemed rushed or incomplete if the film were shortened.

Initially, the ideas may seem scattered, but have patience. As the film progressed, I soon became deeply invested in each character’s heartfelt journey, as the film ties together themes of love, identity, and rebirth, strengthening my anticipation for what’s to come later in the film. The first sign of cohesion came around thirty minutes into the film, and was deeply touching, as Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, or Jim Broadbent express a feeling of familiarity with absolute strangers or certain places through narration: “A powerful déjà vu ran through my bones, as if I have been here before in another life.”

I love how the actions scenes are overlapped at certain moments, switching between two storylines in which Jim Sturgess and Doona Bae are engaged in a high-speed chase on futuristic motorcycles or Tom Hanks and Halle Berry are fighting off barbaric tribes deep in the forest. In addition, some of my favorite scenes involve montages of their daily lives as one person narrates over the scene in a way that relates to what each individual is experiencing. During these montages, the nostalgic theme song, Cloud Atlas Sextet, drowns out the background noises, evoking a sense of déjà vu as if an echo subconsciously runs through each of them and connects them metaphysically. Ben Winshaw remarks, “It’s a whole movement I wrote, imagining us meeting again and again in different times, in different ages.” This concept is also conveyed visually through shared surreal dreams as well as when everyone reveals mysterious, identical birthmarks or scars, resembling a shooting star.

Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, and Lana Wachowski excellently synthesized these various plot elements into one big picture. One thing’s for certain: Cloud Atlas deserves an Academy Award nomination for the effort put into make up, depicting different, and sometimes unrecognizable, incarnations of each character. Cloud Atlas invokes a sense of hope for the future, and provokes a reflection on the interconnectedness of life. “I believe there is another world waiting for us.” After watching this poignant film, I will make sure to read the book in the near future!