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Cloud Atlas – Review

14 Dec

It’s a rare thing to see a movie have three directors, but that’s the case with 2012’s hugely epic film, Cloud Atlas. Based off a book by David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas is a collaboration between Andy and Lana Wachowski, the famed directors of The Matrix and its sequels, but also German film maker Tom Tykwer, most known for his hyperkinetic action film Run Lola Run. Together, these three film makers have achieved a bold cinematic landmark that is really like no other movie I’ve ever seen, and while it is something close to a masterpiece, there are still many areas that could have been cleaned up.

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The Pacific Islands, 1849: Adam Ewing (Jim Sturgess) is an American lawyer sent to the Chatham Islands to conclude a business deal for his step-father. On the voyage home, Adam begins writing a journal as his health starts deteriorating. He soon befriends an escaped slave, Autua (David Gyasi) who shows him the error of his ways of thinking.

England, 1936: Robert Frobisher (Ben Whitshaw) begins working with aging composer Vyvyan Ayrs (Jim Broadbent) in order to earn his own acclaim with his “Cloud Atlas Sextet.” While writing letters to his lover Rufus Sixsmith (James D’Arcy), it becomes apparent that Ayrs is just out to steal his work and profit from it in his old age.

San Francisco, 1973: Luisa Rey (Halle Berry) is a journalist hell bent on exposing the crimes of corrupt businessman Lloyd Hooks (Hugh Grant). She soon becomes the target of a hitman (Hugo Weaving) hired by Hooks to silence her and preventing his secrets from ever being exposed. Luckily, Hooks’ head of security (Keith David) is working against him, and begins working with Rey to uncover the truth.

London, 2012: Timothy Cavendish (Jim Broadbent) is an aging publicist who becomes wealthy overnight after his client (Tom Hanks) kills a critic. He soon has people breathing down his neck demanding money, and through a series of odd events becomes trapped in a nursing home. Along with other residents, Cavendish plans an escape back to the real world.

Neo Seoul, 2144: Sonmi~451 (Doona Bae) is a genetically engineered human working as a server in a chain restaurant that hides its fair amount of secrets. When she’s rescued by revolutionary Hae-Joo Chang (Jim Sturgess), she realizes her true destiny and becomes a voice for change and revolution.

Big Isle, 106 winters after The Fall: Zachry (Tom Hanks) is a tribesman living in Hawaii whose life is disrupted when Meronym (Halle Berry) visits the island to find a remote communications device on a mountaintop that is the supposed home of the devilish Old Georgie (Hugo Weaving). Zachry braves his own beliefs in the gods and devils of his time to escort Meronym to the device in order to help save her people.

All of these sound like completely different stories, but there is a link that connects them throughout the centuries and shows how one person’s actions can affect the future of the entire world.

What a summary to write. I have to completely break the format of my posts just to fit a fraction of everything in. This is one of the biggest movies I have ever seen that earns its place as an epic to stand the test of time. Cloud Atlas truly is a marvel and something that has to be seen to entirely be believed. It’s science fiction, fantasy, mystery, espionage, action, romance, and adventure all rolled up into one big film. Something this big has to take chances, however, and these chances do hurt this movie during some parts, but it can’t be denied that there’s way more positives than there are negatives.

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Since the story of Cloud Atlas is so huge, there is so much that the cast and crew had to do in order to make it actually work. First off, the make up in this movie is really impressive, especially considering that every actor plays multiple parts in each of the six time periods. Seeing Hugh Grant go from being a business tycoon to the leader of a cannibalistic tribe is surprising and seamless. Part of the fun is trying to spot the different actors under all of the make up. The effects are also quite good, especially in the Neo-Seoul sequence, but the effects aren’t what is really memorable. What the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer did by combining all of their efforts is almost its own special effect.

Back to how huge this movie is. It’s rare that you’ll find something as bold and large as Cloud Atlas and not have some gripes. Unfortunately, not all of the six time periods are that interesting. I was surprised to see that the New-Seoul sequence is actually the most bland part of the entire movie, even if it is the most action packed. To me, the most interesting parts of the movie was the 1936 period and the post-apocalyptic time. It sometimes got a little difficult sitting through this 3 hour long movie when some of it really started to drag. Fortunately, the editor of this movie cut the sequences together so perfectly that there was something to grab my attention as it was starting to get dull.

While many would probably disagree with me and call me insane, I believe that Cloud Atlas is a minor but strong modern day masterpiece. It’s a movie that I can see being remembered many years from now when people look back to study this time in film history. The Wachowskis and Tykwer are all talented film makers, and this collaboration showed what they are truly capable of. It may not be a perfect film and can often feel like a chore, but in the end it really is a one of a kind cinematic experience.

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Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance – Review

13 Jan

This is going to be the start of a review for a trilogy. Chan-Wook Park’s Vengeance Trilogy to be more specific. Park has established himself as one of the most creative and innovative film makers to come out of Asia, and has even inspired American film makers and film makers from around the globe in terms of style and story. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance started off this thematic trilogy in 2003, and while it is a good start to the three movies that share common themes, it is a relatively weak entry in his filmography.

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Ryu (Ha-kyun Shin) is a deaf-mute who is working in a factory so his sister (Ji-eun Lim) can get a kidney transplant. After getting fired and hearing no good news from the hospital, Ryu takes his life savings and turns to the black market to get a kidney. The sellers don’t make good on their deal and end up stealing his kidney without selling him one for his sister. In order to get the money Ryu’s girlfriend, Yeong-mi (Doona Bae) suggest kidnapping his ex-boss’ daughter (Bo-bae Han) and collecting the ransom money. After tragedy strikes, his ex-boss Dong-jin (Kang-ho Song) wants revenge and will stop at nothing to kill the people responsible for ruining his life.

To start off with, I feel let down by this movie. There are a lot of good things about it that I will get to, but as a whole it is clearly inferior to Park’s other work. First of all, there are a lot of things in the beginning of the movie that are glazed over so fast I wasn’t even aware that I was getting any plot information. Because of that, I would get confused further down the line at what was going on and who was who. It wasn’t until about a third of the way into the movie that I was aware of who everyone was and what exactly their motivations were. This is not exactly a fun way to watch a movie.

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The story, itself, of Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is pretty awesome. The whole deal with organs, the black market, abductions, and revenge just blend together really well, despite the shortcomings in how the story is told. It’s a grim, dark, and almost depressing story, even though it still shows signs of dark humor that Park is so good at doing. Amidst the violence and suspense, I found myself laughing at certain parts just out of how strange things were. In some cases, right after laughing, I’d find myself cringing or in a state of bewilderment. The violence in this movie can be extreme, but it’s never so graphic or insane that it becomes gratuitous. Still, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is not for the feint of heart.

This  is also a beautiful movie to look at. Chan-wook Park has an unbelievable eye when it comes to creating beauty amongst ugliness. The surroundings in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance are very gray and dreary, completely lacking any set or location that is beautiful. What is beautiful is how Park shows these sets and locations. His blocking and camera techniques are spot on and make every scene interesting. I found myself thinking about how he thought to angle some of the more interesting shots and if I would ever be able to think of something like that.

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Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is not Chan-wook Park’s best film. The plot, which is excellent, is not told in the most sensible way and a lot of important points may be missed your first time through. Park said he was going more for theme and style over plot, which shows, but it doesn’t help the movie that much. That being said, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance looks great and fits well in this thematic trilogy. It has memorable scenes, but I still say that it could have been a lot better considering how cool the story is.