You may or may not have noticed by now, that every film I’ve written about this week has been labeled “Reaction” instead of “Review”. The main reason for this is that during a festival, there is just too much being consumed to give full-on reviews to everything. Then there’s the secondary reason – that sometimes a film will come along that will shake your brains like its playing a turn of Yahtzee, and then dare you to immediately review it.
CLOUD ATLAS is the latter.
If you’ve seen the long and enigmatic trailer and have asked yourself “what is this about?”, I can tell you that the film deals with six different narratives that are loosely connected to one another in a literal sense. The subject matter of each narrative varies, but they all involve personal quests of varying scope. In each thread, we see the same group of actors in varying degrees of importance. Sound complicated? It is.
For me to even attempt to interpret the film’s elements and execution during a week in which I’ve watched more than twenty other films would be a disservice, so I’ll be holding off on that until the movie’s release in October. For what it’s worth, I took about double the amount of notes I take in an average festival screening. I can tell you a few things though, if you’ll pardon some broad terms.
For starters, I can see CLOUD ATLAS being a divisive and mercurial film. The film is epic, philosophical, theological, and tremendously patient. It clocks in at a whopping 2 hours and 45 minutes, and it uses every last second of that to make its point. There have been a few contemporaries to what CLOUD ATLAS aims to do on screens over the last five or ten years, and many of them have become as love-it-or-hate-it titles. I don’t think it’s a stretch to see CLOUD ATLAS joining them as a source of much debate.
What’s more, as a film that tells multiple storylines, I can see audiences having trouble digging the film as a complete work, since one or more of the chapters won’t be engaging for them on an individual level. If I had to place a bet, I’d wager that the one set in a post-apocalyptic future turns audiences off the most. This is the risk of telling an omnibus (which the source novel is in some ways), but for me it was what drove home some of its grandest ideas.
I have to give everyone involved credit: This film is audacious. For Tom Twyker, a man who has never been able to gain traction in North America, the film is easily the grandest thing he’s ever attempted. As for The Wachowskis, this is their first bit of feature directing since SPEED RACER, and considering that film’s disappointment at the box office, they could have been pardoned for making a safe bet. Instead, they have doubled-down and given us something daring.
CLOUD ATLAS was easily one of the best things I saw all week, even if I can’t articulate why just yet.