There are films that simply strive for greater heights than the average blockbuster. Most of the big movies that we’re conditioned to see are essentially attempting a perfect Swan dive. Occasionally you get a blockbuster that really wants to do something showy… take the TRANSFORMERS series for example. Stunning visual effects – which equates to adding twists and turns in your blockbuster dive, but the legs totally separated more on every twist and when it hit the water – lots of splash, but that’s not good in this metaphoric dive. Doesn’t mean we don’t get perfect blockbuster entertainment – and these flicks. Something like THE DARK KNIGHT or AVENGERS or AVATAR – you get something that might moderately make you think about not only the spectacle of all the twists and turns, but even when it’s a flawless jaw dropping wow… it’s still a dive. It still starts on the board and ends in the water. Ya know?
Then there’s a movie like CLOUD ATLAS.
Imagine you’re at the Olympics. An unassuming diver that represented a country you didn’t necessarily root for or supported took the platform. The diver was about to climb the long ladder to the top, when this athlete is suddenly in the air mid dive spinning like a top with perfect form, colors begin spilling out of them, the diver appears at the top of the board, they’re now seemingly representing another country, perhaps yours this time, they’re female and while the phasing image of the first diver is spinning the colors continue to explode from that point as the diver launches upwards rocketing through a roof that explodes into pedals of beautiful flowers that cascade Busby Berkeley style as if on rotating ethereal stages when suddenly you’re nursing from your mother as an infant and feel more complete and warm and connected, the blink reveals the diver, now the original entering the water without a splash, perfect. And you saw this live. It was captured by all the cameras – and everyone saw something different, spectacular and transcendently significant that leads them to leading a better life.
That’s CLOUD ATLAS.
It isn’t at all like that paragraph, it is it’s own bit of insanity that will begin by making you feel unsure. Not exactly getting the significance of the edited together story lines. But as the cuts come, as centuries pass, characters age, evolve and transform – you see a thread of a meaning to life. The makeup alone in this movie is just stunning and when you get to the end credits where they show you who played what in the film – you’ll discover an audience truly appreciative for being played. It isn’t a stunt… it’s a cumulative effect. I never once looked for Waldo. It wasn’t about the actors – it was about the eyes, the lives being led, the future enlightening the present while clouding the past.
The film, for me, dove into a realm of spirituality and soul that is non-denominational, but felt right. A lot of couples that get married talk about that moment in which their eyes first locked. It’s a powerful moment – even now in my memory – the greatest thing I’ve ever seen were the eyes of the woman I married. And I knew it almost instantly. It changed me fairly radically. But that first moment, that electrical connection – that memory – the feeling it hits me with. That’s explored in this film. You find that there are people you don’t like and yet you don’t know why – you just don’t like them & worse their very existence seems to be there to drive you insane. Why do things happen to us? Why are there so many coincidences. WHY is it the way it is?
CLOUD ATLAS explores the possibilities. Explores them with three amazing filmmaking talents directing. Tom Tykwer, Andy & Lana Wachowski. They’ve made a mesmerizing film that as I’ve described thus far may seem like an impenetrable mess of juxtaposed existences manipulated by filmmakers to create the exact feelings that I’m going off on, but it isn’t a mess. It isn’t impenetrable. It isn’t boring or cold. It isn’t being stuffed down your throat.
Very quickly you’ll begin to get the hang of the progressing parallel stories and how it is all connected, but you won’t see where anything is leading, those things are revealed exquisitely in manners that produce a feeling of a myriad of sensations and emotions.
This is a type of film that explores notions and concepts that you’d expect in a Douglas Trumbull film like BRAINSTORM – but it is even more far out than that. But it feels right.
Recounting the accounts of the film, honestly, I couldn’t be more disinterested in telling you the detailed shape of the stories of this film. For me, the film reinforced personal beliefs I have in how I tend to express my soul to folks unfortunate enough to have to endure my insanity. But as Glenn Ford said, “You are here for a reason!” – and while we can’t all be SUPERMAN – and while we may not find that reason in our lives, the reason exists, there is a point. A cumulative effect. A single drop of water can’t see how it contributed to the Grand Canyon. Are we really any more aware of how we affect existence. The papers we shuffle, the emails we write, the shit we shit and the folks we’ve loved.
It never will make perfect sense – It being “LIFE” – but I believe we each do the thing we do and strive to do better the next day, the next hour, the next breath. We move with the joy of discovery of life. Reaching a degree of personal peace in life, genuine happiness and love for the world we’re a part of becomes exceedingly hard to manage the more of the NOW you are. Obsessively trying to be up to date. Focused on what is trending, what is everyone about – instead of trying to understand what you’re about.
CLOUD ATLAS is a movie that will reinforce one’s belief in love – easily handled – and beautifully so. Tears of joy and sadness will flow, but when the hat trick of sewing up a film that upon first viewing – sent me home to write a 3,500 word review and stay up till 6am writing, only to have the Gremlin in the machine eat it all. That was a far more traditional write up where I talked about the non-linear bliss of it all. I wrote ages about the power of actors and actresses to portray different characters, emotional ranges – and then when enhanced by stunning make-up – and you have talent like that attached to every layer of this film… you end up with something truly unbelievably great. I couldn’t watch another film that night at Fantastic Fest – I just wanted to wallow in the afterglow of a film with a big brain that didn’t explain it with needless exposition. That didn’t hold our hand, but trusted that when we are thrown into this story our mental parachute will allow us a safe and joyful landing at the end of the film.
People use the term mind-blowing – this is what they’re talking about.
Run to this. You claim you’re tired of the same fucking shit every time you go to a theater. Well go to this. Then realize you’re going to buy the score – and you’re going to sit at you computer as you listen to it and tearfully explain to this dear friend, lover or associate why you must see this film with them. This film is to be experienced with the people in life whom you enjoy your favorite conversations. The conversations that you take to heart and that mean the world to you at 5 am on a long night. See this with someone you love to experience new things with. Someone that if you look at them in the movie, they’re looking at you at the exact moment you look at them with the same, “HOLY SHIT” look blazed upon their faces.
This is entertainment as well as enlightenment. Jim Broadbent will own you. Tom Hanks is just amazing. Halle Berry is wow. Jim Sturgess and Doona Bae… man, Doona Bae is extraordinary – you won’t shake her. You’ll have moments of her and the characters her soul embodies with you for a very long time. It has nearly been a month now. A month since I’ve seen this. This is me writing about the film a month after I’ve seen it, albeit I am listening to the score while I express that that you’ve got to go so you can applaud Keith David – and I know you love to hate Hugo Weaving and Hugh Grant – because they can do that oh so well. But here – BRAVO.
We can be so much more than what we are in the presence. I love science fiction and fantasy because occasionally on a blue moon or when a star falls and you make a wish – we get a film that makes us cheer. It gave us themes to discuss, ideas to wallow in and perhaps it can change how you look at everyone. Past the Wal-mart fashion, past the piercings and tattoos, past tits & dicks and realize we can occupy this space in a better way than we do now. Yeah, gas is high, it isn’t like we can pull it out of clean air. (actually apparently we can now btw, so much for clean air) But think multigenerationally. Think with the whole of time, find the context you belong in and is that who you want to be.
I love movies that just get you grasping at existence, while also thinking what an awesome wise old scarred up man Tom Hanks can be if he just gets mangled a bit and lives another 50 years…. At least.
This is the best thing opening today, by leaps and bounds! And I have to say, while I hear that almost everything that you’re looking forward to for the rest of the year is just amazing. I find it hard to imagine any film that we’ll see for a long time, that will hit this particular symphony of notes with me. I want a wetworks socket to load the film straight into my mind and the only way I have to do that is to revisit the film… and often. The complement of Tykwer to the Wachowskis… it’s the magic this film has. There’s a very interesting alchemy to this film that feels just perfect. That’s such a gift.