Top Films of 2012: Number 1 - Cloud Atlas

After some rave reviews and a recommendation from a trusted mentor, I read this book during my MFA stint. While I enjoyed the novel well enough and could see what Mitchell was going for, it just didn’t seem to “hit” me like so many other readers. It was good, but I didn’t see why it impacted others as it had. So when I first heard about the possible adaptation brewing between Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis, I was more than a little interested. (I’ve been a huge fan of Tykwer since Run Lola Run, and say what you will about the Matrix sequels, the Wachowskis can put together some of the best sequences and eye-candy better than most currently working directors.)

In short, the film simply blew me away. It finally “hit” me. Hard. Right in the chest, and I don’t think another film affected me with such a huge emotional impact as this one did. I finally understood what everyone was talking about with the novel and what Mitchell had attempted. But why I think this worked better for me is not only that I’m a visual person, but the blending of the six stories completely and wholly, rather than Mitchell’s matryoshka presentation in the novel, made the connections in the narrative that much stronger, and both visually and emotionally engaging. Seriously, some of the montage sequences of this film are simply mind-blowing; the editing and thematic links created between the “Cut Tos” build a whole so much bigger than the individual parts.

On top of that, the acting is wonderful—even if it’s a bit too easy to get caught up in the “Who is the actor playing in this section?” as you watch. Hugo Weaving is all sorts of amazing as “The Devil Georgie” and “Nurse Noakes.” And while there’s nothing particularly “amazing” about Hugh Grant’s characters, he was the only actor that I completely missed all of his other roles, so take that as you will. (I will be more than a little disappointed if there isn’t some “Best Actor/Actress” love shown to this film.)

Visually, too, this film is stunning, as it has a wonderful juxtaposition of a gritty, down-to-earth beauty combined with a glowing/horrific version of the future. Really, though, considering the directors, I’d have been more surprised if the film HADN’T been aesthetically pleasing.

Ultimately, though, what makes the film work is the editing. Yes, it might not be something most folks notice or will pay any attention to, but condensing and jumping through time as this film does without a skilled editor? Well, it would’ve been shit, plain and simple. This, in particular, I will be more than a little annoyed if Alexander Berner does not get an Oscar nomination for this film. He’s what makes this film work.

True, it may be over-bloated and pompous to some, but when you consider the source material and how cohesive of a narrative these directors were able to create? You should be able to ignore a bit of overindulgence from time to time. Because, in the end, a film that produces such an emotionally-engaging romance film that spans hundreds of years in terms of settings and characters, well, it’s almost impossible to be unimpressed by the accomplishment of these directors.