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Yes, No, Maybe So: "Cloud Atlas"

Beau here to give Cloud Atlas the Yes No Maybe So treatment while Nathaniel remains otherwise occupied.

Ben Whishaw and Doona Bae in "Cloud Atlas"

Jesus. What to say? I’m struck by the visual nature of the beast, but that’s to be expected given the caliber of talent involved with the project. At the same time, something so grandiose and ambitious has a natural inclination to tip, like the leaning tower of Pisa. Beautiful to look upon, but you don’t want to get to close lest the thing actually crumble under its own weight. Gravity is tricky that way. [More...]


  • Novelistic Themes: I like that the film doesn’t intend on shying away from its original source material. It incorporates it in a beautiful form and doesn’t dumb it down from the audience. Subtle homoeroticism from the brilliant Ben Whishaw, Berry reiterating the primary(?) theme that we always repeat the same mistakes in the naive hope that one day everything will actually come together. There’s little evident restraint, which some might consider a bad thing. For me, I appreciate the daring and the sprinting into fire. It promises that we may see things we might never have on a huge scale.
  • Visuals: It’s from the Wachowskis and Tom Twyker. That should be a given from the get go. Nathaniel could do a Best Shot from the trailer alone, and it’d be difficult to decide which one best encapsulates the story and leaves an impression on the viewer. (The long shot of Berry crashing into the river is particularly striking to me.)
  • The facial expressiveness of Doona Bae (from Air Doll). Able to convey thoughts and emotions without the use of speech, I should be thinking of Rinko Kikuchi given the Babel-like interconnectedness, but I'm reminded of Samantha Morton in Sweet and Lowdown and Minority Report. Something delicate and sweet and trusting and fearful and mortal that collide willingly. She elicited the most emotion from me, without question.

(Hell) No

  • Tom Hanks doing his best Ice-T. I’ll pass.
  • Tom Hanks delivering stilted dialogue regarding the universe, catching Halle Berry, etc. I feel a certain protectiveness towards the man, given that he had such a place in my childhood (what with ‘Forrest Gump’, ‘Cast Away’, etc) but that doesn’t excuse the fact that he seems fairly out of place. If Zhou looks borne of this universe, Hanks looks like he crash landed and is desperately seeking a rescue ship off this planet. Berry and Grant look a bit more comfortable.


  • Jim Sturgess is a beautiful looking man. Talented singer, adequate actor. But he doesn’t elicit a passion; there is a sense of a man who became an actor looking for the man. When he finds him, he may have something. We’ll wait and see. 
  • The Director’s Commentary !?!. Forced to explain their art, which a filmmaker doesn't need to do. The film hasn’t even come out yet, and already executives are pressing these three talented filmmakers to produce a one-sentence, ‘high concept’ summarization of the material? Gamely, they played along. But it’s another example of a distributor / studio not having enough faith in the material, the creative team, and most especially, the audience.

Maybe So

  • The intertwining narratives: How it will all piece together is the key to making this picture work. Will they seamlessly fuse together and create a structural marvel of experimental narrative, or will that fusion feel disingenuous, cheating? Will it make ‘Babel’ and ‘Crash’ feel honest in their shared theme of ‘Everything is Connected?’ Let’s hope not. Whereas those films (I dislike both) were rooted and grounded in ‘reality’, ‘Cloud Atlas’ isn’t afraid to transcend space and time (gender, sexuality, race, etc.)

I am enormously interested in this project, but I would not be surprised to see it tip one way or another. It’s not the kind of film that is likely to elicits easy reactions from audiences; you can’t simply ‘like’ it or feel blase about it. That much is apparent from the extended preview, and that is enough of a reason for me to plant down my $15, if only to experience something like this in the company of an audience. The rhythms and shifts will be more vast, shift more dramatically, the tone collapses and reorganizes itself as something entirely different.

I’m down. Simply because I have no idea what I’m going to see with Cloud Atlas. Which is more than enough reason to be excited about it.

Are you a Yes No or Maybe So?

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Reader Comments (21)

I am pretty sure it's Donna Bae (Air Doll) in the trailer, not Zhou Xun.

Most anticipated film of 2012 autumn! Epic!

August 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBobby

Damn! You're correct! Mea Culpa; someone I was talking to and I were just going on and on about her and he was under the impression it was Zhou as well.


August 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBeau

bobby & beau -- corrected.

well zhou xuns in the trailer too. but doona bae gets all the air time.

this looks like an unholy mess to me (HATE the narration) but weird enough to be an amusing disaster if it is a disaster.

August 4, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

For Broadbent and Whishaw, I am a YES.

August 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmes

I had a very different reaction to the director commentary video. I thought it served as a thoughtful introduction to the Cloud Atlas universe. The cuts between the directors make them become one entity told through three distinct personas that reflects the grand scope of regeneration in the film. It's a whole lot better than the typical big film director previews where they're begging people to see a movie without saying a word about its content.

Hanks does seem a bit stilted, but we're getting out of context voice over that might even be cobbled together from multiple speeches that make more sense in the film.

I guess I'm a yes. I was stunned by the beauty of the story and visuals.

August 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

I'm not sold. I'm intrigued but definitely not sold. It makes m think of The Fountain, wich was a cult for few people and a disaster for many others (for me too, although I LOVE Aronofsky. Sadly I can't tell the same for the Wachowski Bro).

Another (maybe) under-used supporting turn for my beloved Sarandon? I hope there will be much more Susan in the movie than what we see in the trailer. Pleaaaaase!!!

And I can't stand Tom Hanks and Halle Berry and they seem to be the leads, so....

August 4, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterferdi

Look for Zhou Xun at 3:41, the blonde alongside Hanks. I thought Zhou would be perfect for Sonmi-451 but whatever.

August 4, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterappleeatingdog

It looks like this years Extremely loud and Incredibly Close :S

August 4, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermorganisaqt

Yes - it looks very interesting...

August 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon


August 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

Maybe so. Not a fan of the book. Think it could nevertheless become a good movie, and this looks possibly special, but agree that the narration, Hanks, Berry and other elements send up red flags. Given its running time (nearly three hours) I'll probably wait on feedback from some trusted critics before diving in.

August 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

Bae Doona is always a good reason to watch a movie!

August 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMirko

It looks like working with Tom Tykwer has rubbed off on Lana Wachowski. She's channeling Run Lola Run.

August 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Has anyone seen Mr Nobody starring Jared Leto? It's a high-concept Canadian film that reminds me a lot of this.
Here's the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzXH-MIPzZQ

August 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLucky

Tom Hanks out of place??
I literally can't remember Tom Hanks being in a crappy film. Can anyone enlighten me?
I juts hope this doesn't tarnish his reputation for being a Hollywood legend.

He is taking inspiration here from Kenny Powers from Eastbound and Down although all he needs is the mullet and it would literally be him.

Hugo Weaving (being normally quite a weird looking chap without make up) really looks scary as some of his characters from the movie. I hope it he doesn't give children nightmares.

August 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCyril Sneer

The Da Vinci Code.

That was easy.

August 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBeau

mmmm...Never seen, nor do I intend to. Any others?

August 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCyril Sneer

Im interested to see how they deal with the sequencing. The book adhered to a framework where they introduced each character in each time, then left each story with a cliff-hanger-esgue ending, then, the second half of the book went back and tied it all back together. I wonder how it will play out on screen. Lots of jumping around or will it stick to the same narrative?

August 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterZack Mandell

Weak Tom Hanks movies:

Extremelely Loud and Incredibly Close
Larry Crowne
Angels and Demons
The Terminal
The Ladykillers

August 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiz N.

Hey, now - Hanks is great in The Ladykillers!

August 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

I actually love The Terminal unabashedly. Spielberg in full-on Capra mode.

August 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBeau
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