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Byron Shire
May 15, 2021

Cloud Atlas

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Film review by John Campbell

Where to begin with this movie? To say that it is ambitious in scope doesn’t quite cover it. Remarkably, against odds that soar with every location and time shift, and with virtually no cohesive through-line, directors Tom Twyker and Andy and Lana Wachowski somehow make a silk purse from a sprawling, quasi religious, folkloric, apocalyptic, epochal, sci-fi historical cozzy action romance, with a good old fashioned ‘take that, you bastard!’ bit at the end when a revolting villain gets clobbered by a downtrodden Mexican factory girl.

The fun starts when we meet Tom Hanks as a sort of tattooed primitive. The catastrophe that destroys human civilisation has happened and Tom, with a bung eye and mumbling wonderful pidgin English, is reflecting on the Last Days – if you can run with that scenario, you’ll be right.

We then make the first of countless flashbacks and jumps forward, from the South Pacific in the nineteenth century, to a nuclear plant in San Francisco, 1973, to Neo Seoul sometime in our next century, to a post-WWI famous composer’s Edinburgh, to… well, you get the picture.

Hanks pops up all over the place, a different character each time, as do William Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Hugh Grant (brilliant as a sleaze), Ben Whishaw, Halle Barry and a scrumptious Doona Bae. It’s almost impossible to answer the basic question, ‘what’s it about?’ other than to say that, in a scrambled but intensely focused sense, it is about us all – about how we are benighted by greed and self-interest, sustained by love and redeemed by sacrifice.

Moving at a cracking pace, the tone is never ponderous, the CGI impressive (the Seoul segments are super), and the tone not so weighty that it won’t allow for a few decent belly laughs – the naked lad sprung by his girlfriend’s parents and, in a panic, using the family cat to cover his privates is a hoot, as is the sequence that has a group of oldies escaping from their nursing home. I enjoyed it heaps.

 


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