Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Masterpiece? They’re in Cloud cuckoo land

February is a month made in heaven for movie buffs like me.

 From the Baftas to the Oscars and all the nominated new releases now showing simultaneously, it's possible to spend every spare moment either watching new movies, or watching experts and enthusiasts discussing them in the media.

This year has been particularly good too, with some high quality humdingers all appearing in quick succession. Django Unchained, Zero Dark Thirty, Argo, Life of Pi ... all brilliant in so many ways and all definitely worth the fiver per ticket to be seen at least once on the silver screen.

Of course, there are plenty of other films too that don't make it to the awards that are just as good, if not better than that much-lauded list. And then there are some that are so bad that you feel like you've wasted a few hours of your life that you'll never get back.

I'm sorry to say that (for me at least) the new Tom Hanks film Cloud Atlas falls with a resounding thump into that category.

It's difficult really to know where to start with a movie that has three separate directors, is set in six different time periods, on two different planets, spans hundreds of years and features multiple actors playing multiple roles in an array of bizarre guises.

But I will try my damndest.

If I had to cram it into one paragraph it would be this: What do you get if you cross Avatar, Apocalypto, Master and Commander, The Matrix, a really rubbish episode of Jasper Carrot, Snatch, Brideshead Revisited, Spiderman, Amadeus, every Jackie Chan movie, Benny Hill, Mad Max, Live and Let Die and All the President’s Men? You get Cloud Atlas — possibly the most confused and confusing film I've ever seen.

In the trailers, words such as “audacious” “ambitious” “epic” and “astonishing” were used so freely I was quite beside myself with excitement as the opening credits rolled.

As the closing credits rolled the only thing I thought was audacious was how they imagined anyone would follow such a mangled mess of a movie.

It begins with Tom Hanks on some post-apocalyptic far-distant shore addressing the audience using a bizarre dialect that is virtually unintelligible. I certainly didn't have a clue what he was on about, and that sort of set the tone of the whole movie. From thereon in it all goes off the tracks and out of control as the action jumps and jerks erratically and arbitrarily between scenes, storylines, time scales and genres in one big chaotic car wreck.

One minute we're watching a team of identical Japanese robots serving cyber-burgers in a hovering hyper-future spaceship and the next it's the dusty digs of a 1930s Cambridge campus with a pair of upper class twits indulging in a love that dare not speak its name.

Then another storyline whooshes us to the 1970s where Halle Berry is playing a pesky meddling journalist on the case of an evil megalomaniac who's planning on blowing up the world. Then — kaboom! — fast-forward to the present and to a silly comedy-farce where Jim Broadbent has been incarcerated into an old-peoples' home run by sadistic transvestite who looks like Ronnie Barker in drag.

Never at any stage is the connection between these stories ever spelt out but we are (I believe) supposed to gain enlightenment as the film progresses and the characters’ lives and actions interconnect and reverberate across the centuries.

But they didn't really ... so I didn't really.

One of the many gimmicks of this movie — and there are too many to mention — is the peculiar casting quirk, where each famous face plays a different character in each thread. Hugh Grant for example plays six characters, across the assorted time and scene stages.

So altogether Cloud Atlas, for me, was a total catastrophe.

Now afterwards I did come home and read some of the reviews and many of them were glowing. Some even described it as a “masterpiece”.

Hmmmm ...

So maybe it's just me, maybe I'm missing something. Go see it for yourselves, make your own minds up and then would you kindly explain to me what the hell it was all about?

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