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Cloud Atlas Destined to Bomb, Grow Appreciation Over Time

Cloud Atlas
Written and directed by Tom Tykwer, Lana Wachowski, and Andy Wachowski from the novel by David Mitchell
Warner Bros., 2012

Cloud Atlas will be one of those movies that definitely won’t get an audience while in theatres.  The movie is way too long and confusing and seemingly without point to capture today’s crowd.  But by the end of the movie, I couldn’t find much fault with it.  I’m not sure how this will translate over time, I’m not even saying it will be a classic in any true sense.  But that this movie was even made is a miracle.

It comes from three directors: Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) and the former Wachowski Brothers-turned-Wachowski Siblings, because Larry is now Lana.  Ever since Bound and then their amazing, revolutionary The Matrix, they’ve seen stuck in M. Night Shyamalan territory with two widely disliked Matrix sequels and freaking Speed Racer.

The plot follows several periods in history, from the 1800’s to the very distant future, and the likes of Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Jim Sturgess, Keith David, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, James D’Arcy, Ben Whishaw, and Doona Bae, among others (including Susan Sarandon), all play different characters.  There are threads through all the stories of people taking advantage of weaker, or disadvantaged, or otherwise out-of-their-element people: the American slaves, a composer taking advantage of a gay prostitute, servants in “Neo Seoul” that are really no different from slaves, oil barons setting up nuclear power for a fall, and a distant future society being overrun by another war-loving people.

In all of the stories, the actors take turns being the protagonists or smaller characters, although Hugo Weaving is pretty much the bad guy in most of them, and is basically reprising his Agent Smith from The Matrix, only less robotic.  To talk about the various stories and how they connect would be futile, and would shed light on any surprise you might have watching the movie.  But what the movie is about is the heroes of history, past and present, who are willing to die or stand up to the establishment.  Each different story has only a bare connection to the other, which is why it’s kind of hard to follow for a long time.  And the movie runs close to 3 hours.

I feel like this is a movie that only grows better with time, but it has almost no chance in the get-em-in, get-em-out world of theatrical releases.  People take time with movies like this at home now.  They just don’t have the patience, I don’t believe, for a movie like this in theatres.  It’s just the way it is.  The acting is great across the board (Hanks does well getting into a bunch of likeable characters, newcomer Bae is excellent), the visuals are amazing, the music is good–but the plot is going to befuddle many to the point of frustration.  This movie just doesn’t give in.  If you’ve got the time, once it gets past the 90-minute mark, you can settle into the presentation a lot better.  The problem is, once you start “getting it,” you quickly realize that another viewing will be necessary.  The next problem is, the movie is so long that might not be for awhile.

The movie is demanding, and I give it high marks for accomplishing that feat.

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