Cloud Atlas, the movie adaptation of David Mitchell’s novel directed by The Wachowskis (The Matrix) and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) had its premiere at the Toronto Film Festival yesterday and those in attendance have been sharing their thoughts on the film.
Cloud Atlas is an ambitious movie. Most of the cast play multiple characters throughout six time-hopping stories, swapping race and gender in the process. Reactions from the screening range from “a massive cinematic accomplishment on the grandest scale” to “messy and disappointingly unimaginative”, but the majority seem to agree it is a unique movie, and one that will invoke discussion for a long time coming.
Here are a few snippets from some of the reviews:
First Showing – 10/10
It’s the movie of the year. A bold, ambitious, grand storytelling accomplishment that I dare say is a true cinematic revelation
Walking into the film, I was hoping for something ambitious and different. What I got was one of my two favorite films of the year so far, a movie I’ll be returning to again and again, a unique and beautiful work of film art that dares to dream big in a way we rarely see from either studios or independent sources.
“Cloud Atlas” is hard to describe if your only touchstones are other films because it doesn’t feel like any other movie I can name. It’s not just the way the film was made or cast… it’s the types of stories being told.
I walked out of the theater, three hours after the movie started, feeling overwhelmed and moved and almost physically stunned by what I had seen. But mostly overwhelmed; at such a length, with so many stories weaving back and forth, and with so much to say, the new film from the Wachowskis (with Tom Tykwer) hits like you a tidal wave of cinema art, threatening to drown you if you’re unprepared.
Not every viewer will take to Cloud Atlas as I did. I can foresee many of the complaints about the film, and most of them are – to be honest – valid. But all of the complaints about the film will boil down to one thing that I can never see as a negative:
They tried to do too much.
An intense three-hour mental workout rewarded with a big emotional payoff, “Cloud Atlas” suggests that all human experience is connected in the pursuit of freedom, art and love. As inventive narratives go, there’s outside the box, and then there’s pioneering another dimension entirely, and this massive, independently financed collaboration among Tom Tykwer and Wachowski siblings Lana and Andy courageously attempts the latter, interlacing six seemingly unrelated stories in such a way that parallels erupt like cherry bombs in the imagination.
A slower moment or two may have helped The Wachowskis and Tykwer’s film to hit a powerful emotional chord, but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year, there won’t be a bigger movie than Cloud Atlas.
Not quite soaring into the heavens, but not exactly crash-landing either, Cloud Atlas is an impressively mounted, emotionally stilted adaptation of British author David Mitchell’s bestselling eponymous novel.
Despite their myriad differences, the half-dozen plot strands are coherently tied together via sharp editing by Alexander Berner. Yet while the directorial trio does their best to ensure that things flow together smoothly enough and that their underlying message—basically, no matter what the epoch, we are all of the same soul and must fight for freedom—is heard extremely loud and incredibly clear, there are so many characters and plots tossed about that no one storyline feels altogether satisfying.
Rope of Silicon – B+
Overall, while the filmmaking ambition largely outweighs the narrative, Cloud Atlas is an achievement worth experiencing in theaters. After seeing it once I still get the feeling there is more for me to explore and perhaps more to be found in the years to come. It’s not often filmmakers take such risks as this is a film that could have easily been an incoherent mess. I am concerned audiences will grow tired and impatient with the storytelling and grow uninterested with what is more of a repetitive theme than a revelatory one, but whether audiences accept it or not, this is a film that will have people talking and for that we should be thankful.
Globe and Mail – 2.5 stars
In hopes of filming an apparently unfilmable text, the Wachowskis and Tykwer have made the brave choice to relate all six stories concurrently, cutting feverishly from one to the next, trusting that coherence will somehow get provided by Mitchell’s overarching themes and by the gimmick of casting the same actors in different roles. Well, their trust is misplaced: Brave this effort assuredly is, but successful it ain’t. Although the visuals frequently dazzle, the multiple narratives play like what they are – broken fragments that never bond, swiped from a book that seems less adapted than dismantled. It’s all rather like spending nearly three hours with a manic channel-surfer who just won’t settle that itchy finger down – so much on offer, so little to watch.
The Playlist – C-
But perhaps most disappointing of all with “Cloud Atlas,” is how dully unimaginative the film really is. Produced independently and outside the studio system (with Warner Bros. picking up the rights for distribution), you would think it would allow the opportunity for both the Wachowskis and Tykwer to really push this audacious premise to the limit. But at least for The Wachowskis, this may be their most mainstream and blandly drawn effort to date.
“Cloud Atlas” is a fitfully entertaining mess of a movie that one can watch with both open-mouthed amazement and occasional amusement.
The stories are intercut so quickly (unlike the inverted structure of the novel, in which the six narratives are each given a chapter, and then completed with another chapter each, in inverted order) that you never have a moment to become either engrossed or bored, though you often giggle in disbelief. Often the restless nature of the storytelling feels like a shell game, or one of misdirection, as with magic tricks or con games.
A mixed bag for sure, but even the negative reviews toss around the words ‘bold’ and ‘an accomplishment’. Personally these reviews just make me want to see it more.
The US will see Cloud Atlas on October 26th, while the UK and Australia have to wait until February 2013. There may be some awards buzz surrounding the film for technical awards and make-up, so it’s unlikely to fade away after its release.