This is a tale of tales, of echoes down the ages, and it is told through six stories both separate and intertwined. Let us begin with Adam Ewing (Jim Sturgess), sent by his father-in-law to secure slaves from across the South Pacific; once he arrives he finds he is suffering mixed feelings about such a prospect, and his guilt for being a part of such a trade combined with the overwhelming heat of the region causes him to pass out at a tour of the plantation just as he witnesses a slave (David Gyasi) taking a savage whipping. But the resident doctor, Henry Goose (Tom Hanks), thinks he has seen this affliction before and sets about treating it...
The supposedly unfilmable novels continued to succumb to the power of the silver screen with Cloud Atlas, an adaptation of David Mitchell's sprawling saga of souls cast through the centuries, six of them here, which in ways they can barely perceive influence one another much as our actions while we are here can have an effect on countless others, often simply by dint of our very existence, bringing with it an anti-authoritarian message. Sounds a bit heavy? That certainly appeared to be the opinion of most of the available audience, and though this was one of the most expensive indie movies ever created, it struggled to make much of an impact, leaving it regarded as a brave but foolish folly.
That was among those who couldn't see past the money, but for those seeking art, were there any rewards? For a start, though it took a good hour to settle into itself and get used to as it flitted between its narratives, as an accomplishment on a huge scale it was at least as noble as many of the epics of days gone by, and should you care to look did contain parallels other than the obvious ones of a selection of actors taking multiple roles. That could be more distracting than intended, mainly thanks to the makeup which presented them in a variety of ages, races and genders, and not entirely successfully as you were often more intent on working out why they looked so weird than you were on appreciating the performances.
For that and a few other reasons, you were likely to get on with Cloud Atlas better the second time you watched it, and able to note the production's finer qualities rather than concentrate on such things as working out the disparity between the sections directed by the Wachowski siblings and those of their creative partner Tom Tykwer. There was no denying the ambition, but still there were questionable elements: no matter how good many of these actors were in the right role, this varied casting did show up that, for example, Tom Hanks was hopeless at accents or some of them seemed much the same whomever they were intended to be playing. Nevertheless, do not count out the power of novelty, and if nothing else this was eccentric.
Which might be enough to carry it through for some, in spite of its more philosophical musings being less than convincing, or not as much as they wanted, leaving the impression of a hippy-dippy self-actualisation course looming in the wings rather than the intended eureka moment of realising the fundamental interconnectedness of all things. In one way Cloud Atlas was an absolute bargain in that you got six stories for the price of one, and it was lengthy enough to manage to pack in as much of those to be fairly satisfying, depending on your tolerance for the poor comedy blighting Jim Broadbent's otherwise intriguing retirement home section or the right on but hard to swallow environmentalism of Halle Berry's investigative journalist yarn. The science fictional aspects were interesting but derivative, with one blatant influence namechecked outright, yet remained entertaining even as they strained for meaning which was beyond them. There was a nice seventies sci-fi tone to much of this anyway, and if its idea of Scotland was pretty curious, it was no more offbeat than the rest of it. Stick with this and your patience is mostly rewarded.
Reclusive American director who, along with brother Andy, wrote and directed the Matrix trilogy. The Chicago-born Wachowski brothers debuted with the lesbian gangster thriller Bound, and followed it with 1999's sci-fi thriller The Matrix which was a critical and commercial smash and set a new standard for special effects. Sequels The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions were less well received but still scored at the box office. What did not score was their live action version of cartoon Speed Racer, their adaptation of the bestselling Cloud Atlas or their original epic Jupiter Ascending, though cult followings were not far away. Also wrote the screeplays for Assassins and V For Vendetta. Born Larry, and credited as such on her first few films, she became Lana in the 21st century.
Lilly Wachowski (1967 - )
Reclusive American director who, along with brother Larry, now Lana, wrote and directed the Matrix trilogy. The Chicago-born Wachowski brothers debuted with the lesbian gangster thriller Bound, and followed it with 1999's sci-fi epic The Matrix which was a critical and commercial smash and set a new standard for special effects. Sequels The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions were less well received but still scored at the box office. What did not score was their live action version of cartoon Speed Racer, their adaptation of the bestselling book Cloud Atlas or their original epic Jupiter Ascending, though cult followings were not far away. Also wrote the screeplays for Assassins and V For Vendetta. Born Andy, and credited as such on her first films.