find it attractive to be ambitious. It is a luxury of cinema, often
an epic scale or a multilayered story, reflecting numerous threads and
character. However, the separation between art and mere grandiosity is
clarity of the director's intentions through the formal control of
How one uses the cinematic language to express and solve a problem is
of great filmmaking.
and Lana Wachowski are rarely short of ambition but their recent films
been bloated and undisciplined. They ended their Matrix
trilogy dismally and their last film Speed Racer, made
over four years ago, was a financial and critical
dud. As filmmakers they lack restraint. They over-stylise their work,
heavily on technique estranged from meaning. Their love of geek culture
them into imitating anime, manga and kung fu films, but without
or stylistic cohesion.
people they are difficult to gauge too as they have been notorious
deliberately media shy. Only recently did they lift the veil from their
personal lives because they were making Cloud
Atlas with a third director Tom Tykwer (Run
Lola Run). They also opted to address a deep personal issue. Once
Larry, Lana Wachowski transitioned from a man into a woman, following a
is fascinating in the context of the Wachowski's entire filmography.
films they've directed have used avatars to hide the identities and
their central characters, or to subvert the conventional gender roles
archetypal characters. As a semi-autobiographical element in their
work, it is
one of the more intriguing aspects of their films.
British author David Mitchell's, Cloud
Atlas takes avatars and hidden identities to extremes and reaches a
of tedium. It is a film that is as ambitious as the Wachowski's have
ever done, told
over multiple timelines, with the same actors playing different
characters in makeup.
the thematic spine that adjoins all of these stories is lost in an
perpetually interrupted narrative. At nearly three hours
long, the film is intriguing and conceptually unique
but it coasts too regularly on its own deliberate ambiguity and
telling a story, without ever elucidating the cryptic details of each
plot is a jumble of six threads that are thinly stretched and often
In 1849 a young man (Jim Sturgess) is helping a slave onboard a ship
defending him from the other crew members. On an island, a man (Tom
a spaceship land near his village and then a mysterious woman (Halle
helps him to defend his people from barbarian warriors.
Britain during the 1930s, Robert is a gay musician (Ben Wishaw)
write music with Vyvyan (Jim Broadbent), a grumpy but famous composer.
constructs a piece called The Cloud Atlas Sextet. In the 1970s a
(Halle Berry again) is investigating a secret report about a nuclear
Jim Broadbent also plays Timothy, a publisher intimidated by a criminal
written a book and is now threatening him. He asks his brother for help
sent to a nursing home, overseen by an evil nurse (Hugo Weaving). In
2144, a cloned restaurant waitress (Doona Bae) makes a discovery about
in an oppressive futuristic society.
the stories between the directors has resulted in a lack of equal
value. Jim's story feels thinly stretched and uneventful compared to
memorable and extensive threads like the nursing home. There are
images, like a satellite dish unfolding itself, but the smaller scope
vintage periods reduces the visual flair. The only moderately exciting
is Timothy's escape plan. It outshines an emotionless future setting,
derivative of Blade Runner and The Matrix,
which would have been
earmarked as the visual centerpiece.
like The Matrix, the same florid and sometimes
pretentious philosophical dialogue haunts the film too. Ideas about the
afterlife and people being reborn under different regimes are
overwritten lines like: "one can transcend any convention if one can
conceive doing so." The dialogue touches on everything from consumerism
slavery but are these issues ever adjoined or resolved?
intercutting, non-linear structure fails to answer this question due to
impatience of the editing, culling the rhythm and fluidity. Threads are
by pointless jump cuts to other universes, never long enough to
other in meaning. There is also a heavy reliance on gimmicks that
from personal investment in the stories. What is the significance of
Weaving playing not only a hitman, but a green monster in a top hat and
female nurse? Who are these characters?
when the narratives are formally compared as an expression of karma and
reincarnation, the juxtaposition is vacuous. The technique serves only
enhance the velocity of the chase scenes, instead of a synonymous
matter how lofty the ambition, this is fatal in a film addressing