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The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

‘Cloud Atlas’ transcends

My first reaction when leaving the film “Cloud Atlas” was, “that is what a big budget film should look like.” Upon further reflection however, “Cloud Atlas” has several flaws, yet delivers an entertaining and aesthetically appealing story that is really six interwoven plots. Each story takes place during different time periods throughout history, but when taken as a whole, conveys a uniform theme: “What we do in our lives transcends our lifetime and has implications of both past and present.”

Directors Lana and Andy Wachowski (“The Matrix”) and Tom Tykwer (“Run Lola Run”), successfully conveyed this idea and to reinforce the theme of souls being passed on through different bodies, the same actors played parts in each storyline.

The Wachowskis directed half of the stories: a young lawyer (Jim Sturgess) on a 19th century ship in the South Pacific, the start of a revolution by a clone worker (Bae Doona) in dystopian “Neo Seoul” Korea in 2144, and a morally-conflicted tribesman (Tom Hanks) living in a primitive Hawaii signified as “106 winters after ‘The Fall’” (taking place after 2144).

German director Tom Tykwer took the helm on the other three stories: a young composer (Ben Wishaw) in 1936 who travels to Cambridge to work with an aging master (Jim Broadbent), a journalist (Halle Berry) attempting to uncover a nuclear meltdown conspiracy in 1970’s San Francisco, and an old publisher (Broadbent) escaping from a group of thugs in present-day United Kingdom.

At times the different narratives felt awkward and disjointed, however the enormous task of fitting these seemingly unrelated tales together was somewhat remedied by transitions that either audibly or visually connected the stories. One example of many was in a scene “After ‘The Fall’” in which a painted warrior on horseback (Hugh Grant) rides across the screen from left-to-right, before transitioning to a train crossing the screen from left-to-right in present-day United Kingdom.

While characters within the individual stories had little development what set “Cloud Atlas” apart was that the “souls” themselves had character development. This development was especially present in the character played by Hanks who goes from a greedy and sadistic doctor in the 19th century storyline to a tribesman named Zachry, struggling against the temptation of giving into what appeared to be his id (Hugo Weaving). Zachry saves his niece from death by helping a member of a technologically advanced society (Berry), whose home had become inhabitable, send a signal to her fellow survivors.

While Hugo Weaving played characters that were violent or “evil”, Keith David’s characters acted as protectors of “good.”

The makeup in “Cloud Atlas” was a source of controversy as the film had actors portraying different races. Caucasian actors played Asian characters and vice-versa with the primary source of controversy stemming from the way the makeup was used to portray non-Asian actors as Asian characters, focusing mostly on the eyes.

This was an unfortunate filmmaking choice, not to mention that the poorly done makeup distracted from the rest of the film. An argument could be made for the actors changing appearance as a way to reinforce the idea of souls transcending race, but could have been executed tastefully by casting more Korean actors in roles as opposed to British and American.

I admire Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis for what they attempted thematically and accomplished visually, although the film might have been improved had they attempted fewer storylines and used different actors. “Cloud Atlas” is a film I would have liked to see at least twice before writing about but is certainly a film worth seeing for yourself, whether you leave angered by the stylistic choices (or racial choices) or excited by the endeavor.

Courtesy of Warner Brothers’ Pictures
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Andrew O'Connor-Watts, Managing Editor

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‘Cloud Atlas’ transcends