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Cloud Atlas (2012)

“Yesterday, I believe I would never have done what I did today. I feel like something important has happened to me. Is this possible?”

Cast: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and Hugh Grant

Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas is a long, twisting tale consisting of 6 stories, told over a time period from the mid-19th Century to a post-apocalyptic, distant future. Using the belief that one person can impact the life of another in the past, present and future, we are shown an array of different people, each having to deal with a situation related to someone else in a different lifetime.

Based on the novel by David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas was dubbed the ‘unfilmable story’, and given the synopsis, it should be quite clear to see why. Films like this can go one of two ways, either swimmingly well or sink under its own weight. With the bill of actors including the likes of Tom Hanks, Hugo Weaving and Jim Broadbent, it seemed the film was going to fall under the former.

Tom Hanks is obviously the best actor in this line up, and unsurprisingly gives the most consistent performance. With so many different characters in the film each actor played about 4 or 5 people overall, it certainly helped establish who affected who in each era and was a clever way to keep the audience in the loop. Though with this it’s also easy to see who isn’t that great of an actor, Halle Berry springs to mind. She did okay, though I knew not to expect too much from her. Hugo Weaving was brilliant, especially as Tom Hanks’ ‘devil’, and Jim Broadbent is another to keep an eye on, providing some of the more light-hearted laughs of the film.

Being such a long tale, Cloud Atlas sees a lot of varying components rolled into one film. From fluctuating emotions to completely different worlds and drastically diverse situations, you are always being thrown something new. Each world is very individual, some more subtly distinctive than others, but nevertheless, beautiful to look at. Given its length and explorative nature, some will deem it a bit pretentious too. While it is a bit arty and sometimes tries to be more than it is, I’ve seen a lot worse.

One major issue I had was with the length. In some lights, it seems to try and justify this with the fact that the story is so heavy. Admittedly there is a lot going on and many different strands to follow, but it could have been at least half an hour shorter. You start asking yourself when the film is going to end after 2 hours in front of the screen, and when you think the film is drawing to a close, it doesn’t. This ruined it for me slightly, as I started getting to the point of hoping it was going to finish.

This film isn’t for the light-hearted. If you’re going to watch it, you need to commit your time and attention; a few times I felt lost along the way and I think that was due to my declining interest.

Star rating:  6.5/10

Directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski.

Running time 172 minutes.

The Matrix (1999)

“There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.”

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne and Carrie-Anne Moss

I don’t know which world I’d prefer to live in, but if I could be as badass as Trinity, I don’t think it would be a question.

When Thomas Anderson (Reeves) comes to learn the world in which he lives is a mere virtual reality, he must make a choice. Would he rather forget this information and carrying on working his mundane office job, or rather be born again in the ‘real’ world and help defeat The Matrix?

The year is actually closer to 2199 and a massive artificial intelligence system called The Matrix has taken over, surviving by using human bodies for energy and throwing them away once they’ve been rinsed. Not only that but The Matrix has tapped into the minds of everyone, creating an illusion that they’re living a normal life. Morpheus (Fishburne), the leader of the first group of freedom fighters, believes Neo is “The One” who can crack The Matrix bringing people to both physical and psychological freedom.

Even after 13 years, The Matrix is still one of the best sci-fi films I have seen. The visuals are simply stunning and for a film like this to come out back then, most certainly paved the way for more challenging and daring films. Along with the special effects and complex fight scenes, which were all shot beautifully and with a very specific goal in mind (to blow your mind), the characters were brilliant.

Neo is a great protagonist. Just a normal guy given the chance to be something amazing, and his character development is fantastic to watch. While Reeves isn’t the best actor, I don’t know of anyone else who would have been suited to this part. He’s not all that terrible as Neo and to be honest, anyone pitted alongside Fishburne is going to be questioned in terms of acting. His boy-next-door look also works to make him more relatable as a character, a great quality to have when part of the message is about becoming lost amongst the masses. Fishburne was excellent as the mysterious and enticing Morpheus, and those glasses, well they’re just the best accessory. Hugo Weaving was fantastic as Agent Smith too, he created this character that I truly despised. In fact everyone did that well. They all made you feel something for their characters and it was this investment that made them become so interesting and three dimensional.

The only thing I can really say is that the concept is quite heavy first time around. It might even take a second watch to understand it fully. You can get a bit lost and caught up in the excitement too and this distraction might make you think why all of this is even happening half way through the film. If you do understand it and keep up though, it’s awesome.

The Matrix is very intelligently written and aesthetically pleasing. While religious or political meanings can be drawn from the script, taking it how it is, as a great sci-fi film, should be enough to just sit down and watch it. It will make you think and maybe even question a few things, but all in all, there’s no doubt that you’ll be thinking about The Matrix for some time to come.

Star rating: 8.5/10

Directed by Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski.

Running time 136 minutes.