Guest Review: David Lowe Reviews Cloud Atlas (2012)

Directed by: Tom Twyker, Andy Wachowski, and Lana Wachowski
Rated: R
Running Time: 172 min

Tom Hanks
Halle Berry
Jim Broadbent
Hugo Weaving
Jim Sturgess
Doona Bae
Susan Sarandon
The following is a guest review by David Lowe:

It is a cliché of film criticism that filmmakers who aim for the stars and don’t quite get there will deliver a better movie than those who aim for the middle and get everything they want. With this in mind, I say *Go see this movie now before teenaged vampires drive it from the malls of America.*

I don’t believe I had seen a film so complex. Six stories involve the same characters – or, at
 least, the same actors – and are scattered over five hundred years of past, present, and future. Scenes from each story are cut and shuffled and rearranged into a sequence that might have been unintelligible if put together by someone less talented than the Wachowski siblings. Add to this hallucinations and the occasional dream. Locations shift from the South Pacific to Scotland to California to London to Korea to Hawaii and back. In each time and place, characters who practice loving kindness are pitted against others who live by the Social Darwinian credo that the strong eat the weak. One character always bears an identifying birthmark.

Purists complain when a film taken from a novel doesn’t exactly match the book, but in this case changes had to be made. Too much happens in the book to make a watchable film. Each of the original six stories is simplified, but still the movie is almost three hours long. I’m less certain I like the way a couple of morally ambiguous characters become nicer on the screen. The movie’s feel-good ending is very different and, again, nicer. Author David Mitchell is said to have approved each change.

Men play women, and women play men. Blacks play Polynesians, whites, and Asians; whites play Polynesians and Asians; Asians play Mexican-Americans, Polynesians, and whites, with mixed results . Halle Berry shines as any race and gender, and Bae Doona is every bit as lovely with freckles as with her natural face, but the attempt to give white actors Asian folded eyelids stops just short of caricature, and Hugo Weaving as Nurse Noakes is more a buffoonish drag comedian than a convincing woman.

And speaking of Bae Doona, she is unknown here, but on the other side of the Pacific she’s more a movie star than just an actor. I expect we will see more of her.

Let's all welcome David to JollyBuzz. I'm hoping we'll see more thoughtful reviews from him soon!