Movie review: “Cloud Atlas”

Like many folks, I was wowed by the trailer for the Wachowski’s “Cloud Atlas” before being scared off by reviews utilizing words like “challenging”, “jumbled”, and “Tom Hanks in a raggedy beard”. And I am here to tell you:

Don’t be like me. Don’t let reviewers herd you away from the mountain onto soft, spongy ground. Don’t be a wimp. Watch “Cloud Atlas”. You’ll be fine. I promise you, you can keep track of multiple plotlines. I promise, you will even care about all of them. I promise you, you will laugh—there will be soccer hooligans, and flung cats, and Hugo Weaving in bad drag. I even promise you that you’ll be able to follow Tom Hanks’s weird future patois. Have a beer, loosen up your brain two clicks. You’ll be fine.

In fact, you might wanna have two beers before you watch this, because this movie is going to hurl you face-first through a seventh-story plate glass window and drop you through a futuristic hover-grid at massively accelerated speeds until you land in an ocean of synthetic blue Jell-O studded with bright orange goldfish, and you’re gonna wanna be relaxed before that occurs. I tried to do some sewing in front of this movie. Ha ha ha. That’s like trying to sort out socks from the dryer while naked Cirque Du Soleil acrobats shoot blowdarts at you. Not happening. This movie wants your eyeballs—to be precise, it wants them twitching on a platter—but more than that, it wants your brain and your heart and your conscience all engaged and operating at 3000% capacity, because it is going to hook them all up into a massive Wachowski sky-grid of empathy and history and reincarnation, and you are most definitely gonna wanna be awake when that shit happens. Remember how you felt when all the repeating themes and little visual flourishes and colorful clues fell into place in “V For Vendetta”; when, as Inspector Finch said, “I could see everything that happened, and everything that is going to happen. It was like a perfect pattern, laid out in front of me”? That domino-toppling feeling is how you’re going to feel now, like a million Tetris bricks are falling at once inside your head, like you’re watching a Persian rug being woven in the air in front of you by invisible hands, and you will be awestruck.

So why didn’t this movie sell? More and more, it’s looking like the Wachowski siblings have something serious and subversive that they want to communicate not just through individual movies, but through their entire body of work; a revolutionary handbook, rendered through sparkling cityscapes and gorgeously choreographed fights and flawless costumes that look less stitched than confected. A movie with a recurrent verbal refrain of “I will not be subjected to criminal abuse,” repeated by elderly nursing home patients and slaves of repressive corpocratic regimes and social pariahs of all varieties is not a movie that is likely to go down particularly well with privileged defenders of any particular status quo, and one would be hard-pressed to find a more privileged group of human beings than people who earn their livings writing movie reviews in the United States. This movie begins with a reviewer being punched in the face before being thrown off a fourteenth-story balcony. I think we’ve found our box-office culprit.

So there’s the movie, and it is a mountain. Go climb it and report back what you see.


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