November 22, 2012

Cloud Atlas: Movie Review

Germany is known for its cars, beers and movies... the last one actually not at all, but we have a few "famous ones". Recent examples are Inglourious Basterds, Anonymous, Unknown Identity and The Three Musketeers. All of them have two things in common. They were produced in the film studio Barbelsberg and weren't directed/produced by Germans at all. The latest fact isn't bad, because there is only one genre that German filmmaker can capture well and that is historical stuff like Valkyrie or The Reader. Now another big production arrives on the silver screen, but this time everything is different. Tom Tykwer, a well known German director created a movie, that is different than all the other seen before. To accomplish that he needed a lot of German/American money and the help of the well known Wachowski Siblings, who became famous for creating a One-Hit-Wonder. Read for yourself if they could manage to create something spectacular or if they just made the most expensive Indie film ever.

The movie is different in its storytelling than many others. The official synopsis describe it as "An exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution." The main storyline is divided into six different parts, set in different times, setting with recurring characters, who change the future with their action. The idea for the concept sound good so far, but does it really work? The six stories are:

1) 1849, South Pacfic Ocean: An American lawyer travels to Chatham Island during the California Gold Rush. On the ship he meets a black slave and fights against his terrible disease. Nearly the worst of the bunch due the lack of plot. How much could happen on a ship? It also lacks unique ideas, great pictures or at least something that would interest me in it.

2) 1936, England/Scotland: A young musician who finds work as an amanuensis to the legendary Vyvyan Ayrs. He works for the old and terrible geezer to achieve his dream, to finish his own masterpiece. His reputation is shattered to various scandals and the problem that he is gay, which was really bad at that time. The story itself is not that overwhelming in twists and action. It is more of the slow emotional kind like mind and music itself. We see a young man strive for his dreams, which sometimes means to break things up he also likes. It's complicated, but somehow magical. Ben Wishaw is a bit like the long dead Heath Ledger and not only in playing someone who is gay, but because he is such a terrific actor. My guess is that we will see him more often on the silver screen after this and his other incredibly successful movie Skyfall. At least he is for me the best new shooting stars since Christopher Waltz and that's something I don't say that often.

3) 1973, Californa/San Francisco: It's about an eagerly, female journalist who strives to expose a big conspiracy. Her life keeps getting in danger all the time, followed by a deadly assassin. We have everything this old fashioned story needs. A bad company, helmed by a greedy shark like investor, a black cop and several near death situations that only could be archived by a poor assassin. It's the story which is the most generic one, which was already seen in at least a hundred movies before and that in a more interesting way.

4) 2012, United Kingdom: The main character is the oldest one of the cast, an unsuccessful book publisher who never got a hit, but then it happens in the most possible and surprising way. I won't spoil it to you but Tom Hanks played that part magnificently. Afterwards the main character steps into one ridiculous situation after another. Believe me or not, but you won't stop laughing. It has a wholeheartedly feeling to it to see an old man fighting for his freedom against nurses. It was the best one and could be adapted to its own movie.

5) 2144, Neo Seoul: The story revolves around a genetically-engineered fabricant, also called clone about her strive to have the same rights as the pure breeds. She fights against the government for the better good. Nothing new or surprising. It's the story with the most vfx shots and action scenes. The world of Neo Seoul had an unfamiliar look apart from the more realistic stories. It had a few unique moments in regards of gadgets and possible ways that society could take. The only mischief was the weird looking mask for people who like a bit like creepy Asians but shouldn't be exactly be Asians... kinda hard to explain. See for yourself in the attached picture.
6) 2321, Hawaiian Islands: The only story that looks like it could be set in the medieval age but is in the future. In short, its a post apocalyptic story about friendship. To show the audience that it is indeed a future setting the people all talk in garbage grammar and make through that every strong point sound stupid. You couldn't take one sentence seriously, also nothing cool happens in here. The best part is the design of the evil riders and the part that was played by Hugh Grant.

In the end with a few exceptions all of the stories are to "less" to deserve a full movie. Each of them lacks the certain something to carry over for at least 90 minutes, but that isn't needed. Especially for that case they were put together for a whole whooping 180 minute movie. It never is boring, but that's not particulary because it is interesting. Every 3 Minutes we see a new slice of each story. It changes so fast between them that it's never gets boring that way. Its give the movie variety without much variety in the stories themselves. Sometimes we see parts of the boring ones and anticipates the next slice of the best ones. It's enough to keep me steadily interested in them. Also the different nature of each one helps a lot. One is funny, another emotional, the next is more about action. We got everything in there, but not as one story. But in the end, it feels like 6 short stories that are wrongly put together in one big movie. None of them is really connected with the other one. If anything happens in the past does change anything in the future. Yes, there a some shallow aspects of interaction sometimes but nothing really I could take seriously enough. A statue or some background photos aren't enough to feel really connected. I thought it would be more like it is in the "Assassins Creeds"-Games. What the film is missing is a greater goal or at least one theme that every story has.

The best part of the movie is not the story, not the picture or not the theme. It is something that many people don't recognize as something important and that is the make up. It is simply incredible how they archived to reconstruct the faces of them making it nearly impossible to recognize them. It is interesting to watch out for each of them in all the stories. Sometime they have a main role, sometimes they play a villain and mostly they are in minor roles. Mark my words, this one will get the Oscar for Best Make Up. Sorry Hobbit, but this time you won't win this one.

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