One of the great surprises of Fantastic Fest this year was the arrival of Andy and Lana Wachowski who brought their new film Cloud Atlas to the festival. The Wachowskis have been known to be media and press shy, and it was refreshing to see them so smart and so full of enthusiasm for their new film.
My opinion is that Cloud Atlas will be a memorable film, but it will be far too confusing for most of the general public. While the majority of professional film reviewers in-audience declared that it was their favorite movie of the year, I really was distracted too much by the intermesh to follow any plotline all the way through. Cloud Atlas was a playground for fantastic actors and special effects people to practice their craft, but as an audience member I really needed less rather than more. The “more” relates to the amazing broad story scope that they tried to cover, and perhaps that was the reason they added a third director, Tom Tykwer of Run Lola Run fame. By removing at-least one of the timelines in the film they could have tightened things up a bit and removed some really incomprehensible language. In terms of the makeup, sometimes it really works, and other times it completely ruins the scene. I would have preferred that each story have completely different actors except for the one common element running through the storyline.
Tom Hanks really pulled off another Oscar-worthy performance (but when does he not perform to that level).
Jim Broadbent is magic in every scene that he is in, and the foreshadowing at the nursing home was brilliant.
Hugh Grant can be hidden in makeup all you want, but he can only play an English gentleman if he has a speaking role (growling however was fine).
In the most futuristic timeline, double double talk talk is is annoying annoying.
Hugo Weaving needs a hug for having to be a(the) villian(s) in every film of the Wachowskis. He needs a good hero role.
Doona Bae in whiteface in a historical timeline takes away from other elements of her performance.
For me the movie was mostly “meh,” so the best part of the experience was seeing both Andy and Lana. They were incredibly smart and were the kind of geeks and comic book fans that most of us at Fantastic Fest would have hung out with growing up. They were just so skilled that they were able to achieve success in doing what they loved.
It is likely that the white elephant in the room is the discussion of Lana being transgender, and I guess that few have had to go through this as publicly as she had. There’s a fantastic story on The Hollywood Reporter which discusses the situation including a clip from Lana receiving an award from the Human Rights Campaign. In the embedded video she talks about her childhood experiences including a suicide letter that she had written. It’s a powerful story told by a really smart woman.