David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
Mad Men looked set to dominate the night, going in with 19 top nominations, and it continued its winning streak for the best drama title for the fourth year in a row.
But the stars of the period drama didn't fair so well - Jon Hamm was a four-time loser for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series - Kyle Chandler claimed that prize for his role in Friday Night Lights, while Julianna Margulies beat the likes of Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men), Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) and Kathy Bates (Harry's Law) to take home the female equivalent for her turn in The Good Wife.
Meanwhile, Modern Family started the Emmys as they planned to go on - TV husband and wife Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen kicked off the celebrations by walking away with the acting honours for Outstanding Supporting Performance in a Comedy Series.
The hit programme went on to earn accolades for writing and directing before being crowned best comedy at the end of the event.
It was a good night for the Brits too - Kate Winslet was named Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie for Mildred Pierce, while Downton Abbey's Dame Maggie Smith claimed the supporting actress in a miniseries or movie title.
Justin Timberlake (Saturday Night Live) and Gwyneth Paltrow (Glee) were already winners before the red carpet at Los Angeles' Nokia Theatre was even rolled out - they were honoured at the Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards last weekend (10Sep11) in the Outstanding Guest Performance in a Comedy Series category.
Awards host Jane Lynch opened the show with a song-and-dance sequence featuring Star Trek's Leonard Nimoy and the cast of Mad Men, while Andy Samberg's comedy rap trio The Lonely Island, featuring crooner Michael Bolton and R&B singer Akon, and rapper/actor LL Cool J, were among the musical acts providing the entertainment in between awards at Los Angeles' Nokia Theatre.
The main list of winners at the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards is as follows:
Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series: Jim Parsons - The Big Bang Theory
Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series: Melissa McCarthy - Mike & Molly
Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series: Kyle Chandler - Friday Night Lights
Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series: Julianna Marguiles - The Good Wife
Outstanding Lead Actor In A Miniseries Or A Movie: Barry Pepper - The Kennedys
Outstanding Lead Actress In A Miniseries Or A Movie: Kate Winslet - Mildred Pierce
Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series: Ty Burrell - Modern Family
Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series: Julie Bowen - Modern Family
Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series: Peter Dinklage - Game Of Thrones
Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series: Margo Martindale - Justified
Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Miniseries Or A Movie: Guy Pearce - Mildred Pierce
Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Miniseries Or A Movie: Maggie Smith - Downton Abbey
Outstanding Guest Actor In A Comedy Series: Justin Timberlake - Saturday Night Live (Host)
Outstanding Guest Actress In A Comedy Series: Gwyneth Paltrow - Glee
Outstanding Guest Actor In A Drama Series: Paul McCrane - Harry's Law
Outstanding Guest Actress In A Drama Series: Loretta Devine - Grey's Anatomy
Outstanding Comedy Series: Modern Family
Outstanding Drama Series: Mad Men
Outstanding Miniseries Or Movie: Downton Abbey (Masterpiece)
Outstanding Variety, Music Or Comedy Series: The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
Outstanding Animated Programme: Futurama
Outstanding Variety, Music Or Comedy Special: The Kennedy Center Honors
Outstanding Reality Programme: Deadliest Catch
Outstanding Reality-Competition Programme: The Amazing Race
Outstanding Writing For A Comedy Series: Steven Levitan and Jeffrey Richman - Modern Family (Episode: Caught In The Act)
Outstanding Writing For A Drama Series: Jason Katims - Friday Night Lights (Episode: Always)
Outstanding Writing For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Dramatic Special: Julian Fellowes - Downton Abbey (Masterpiece)
Outstanding Writing For A Variety, Music Or Comedy Series: Steve Bodow, Tim Carvell, Rory Albanese, Kevin Bleyer, Rich Blomquist, Wyatt Cenac, Hallie Haglund, J.R. Havlan, Elliot Kalan, Josh Lieb, Sam Means, Jo Miller, John Oliver, Daniel Radosh, Jason Ross, Jon Stewart - The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
Outstanding Writing For A Variety, Music Or Comedy Special: David Boone, Matt Roberts, and Mo Rocca - 64th Annual Tony Awards
Outstanding Directing For A Comedy Series: Michael Alan Spiller - Modern Family
Outstanding Directing For A Drama Series: Martin Scorsese - Boardwalk Empire
Outstanding Directing For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Dramatic Special: Brian Percival - Downton Abbey (Masterpiece)
Outstanding Directing For A Variety, Music Or Comedy Series: Donny Roy King - Saturday Night Live (Host: Justin Timberlake)
Outstanding Directing For A Variety, Music Or Comedy Special: Lonny Price - Sondheim! The Birthday Concert.
The Tourist is about as difficult to get through as spotting the vowels in the name of its director. Florian Henckel von Donnersmark was last seen receiving a Best Foreign Film Oscar in 2007 for The Lives of Others which was about a couple living in East Berlin who were being monitored by the police of the German Democratic Republic. Its positive reception made way for the assumption that Donnersmark would continue to populate the USA with films of seemingly otherworldly and underrepresented themes. But his current project is saddening in its superficiality and total implausibility.
The film’s only real upside is its stars: two of our most prized Americans. Johnny Depp plays Frank Tupelo a math teacher from Wisconsin who travels to Europe after his wife leaves him presumably because of his weakness and simplicity. While en route to Venice he meets Elise Clifton-Ward (Angelina Jolie) who situates herself in his company after she receives a letter from her criminal lover Alexander Pearce (who stole some billions from a very wealthy Russian and the British government) with instructions to find someone on a train who looks like him and make the police believe that he is the real Alexander Pearce to throw the authorities and the Russians off his track. Elise picks Frank and after they are photographed kissing each other on the balcony of Elise’s hotel everyone begins to believe Frank is the real Pearce and so begins the chase.
While Donnersmark could not have picked two better looking people to film roaming around Venice his lack of faith in the audience is obvious. Every aspect of the characters is hammed up again and again as if Donnersmark felt burdened with the task of making us see his vision. Doubtful that we’re capable of getting to where he wants us he has crafted a movie completely devoid of subtlety. Elise’s strength and superiority over Frank are portrayed by close-ups and repeated instances of men burping up their lungs upon seeing her (as if her beauty is in any way subjective?). And in case we forgot that Frank is the victim in this story -- even though he’s been tricked chased and shot at - Donnersmark still felt the need to pin him with a lame electronic cigarette to puff on. Frank and Elise somehow manage to lack mystery even though we get very few factual details about each of them.
Nothing extraordinary comes to us in the way of the film’s structural elements either. There is very little of the action that The Tourist’s marketing led us to believe and the dialog is often painful. The plot itself is almost shockingly unbelievable especially when we’re asked to believe that Elise falls in love with Frank after a combination of kissing him once and her disclosed habit of swooning over men she only spent an hour with (yes that was on her CV).
The Tourist is rather empty and cosmetic. It’s worth seeing if you’re a superfan of Jolie or Depp but don’t expect to walk out of the theater with anything more than the stub you came in with.