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.
It seems street-smart magician David Blaine's distinctive brand of urban magic--mind reading, sleight of hand and his now famous levitation--caught the attention of quite a few Hollywood hot shots several years ago, including veteran actor Robert De Niro.
Performing his tricks at trendy clubs and restaurants across both coasts, Blaine soon found himself adored by legions of stars--Madonna, Spike Lee, Jack Nicholson, Arnold Schwarzenegger and David Geffen. He captured the heart of singer-songwriter Fiona Apple, though they've since broken up, and more recently he's been attached to Cover Girl model Josie Moran.
Now that's a life of which movies are made, and De Niro took notice.
In 1997 the "goodfella" bought the rights to make a film about Blaine's life, and rumors have circulated that Leonardo DiCaprio--a known associate of Blaine's who also happens to be dating a model, Brazil's finest Gisele Bündchen--would star.
Big names, cool project, magic, guys who date models and rock stars--it has all the makings of a potential Hollywood blockbuster. So Hollywood.com decided to investigate the movie, and the people attached to it, in this first installment of our newest column, Hot Projects.
In with the in crowd
It all started in 1997, when ABC gave Blaine, then 24, his first television special, David Blaine: Street Magic. Here's the connection. DiCaprio hosted it. Blaine became an overnight success (the network later went on to produce three other specials, David Blaine: Magic Man, David Blaine: Buried Alive and David Blaine: Frozen in Time), and the Titanic star and the good looking trickster with grunge appeal became buds.
Before he knew it, Blaine was running around town partying with DiCaprio's posse, which included Tobey Maguire, Lukas Haan and skateboarder Tony Hawk. The posse was known for tearing up the New York club scene and obsessing over--you guessed it--models.
But DiCaprio and Blaine reportedly had a falling out. Some sources blamed it on DiCaprio's bratty behavior and jealousy over the attention Blaine was receiving; others rumored it was over a woman. She was probably a model.
Whatever the reason, suffice it to say DiCaprio will not be starring in the film.
"It is not confirmed," DiCaprio's publicist Ken Sunshine said about the role. "It's a lie."
So that's settled. No word yet on who will play Leo.
The De Niro connection
In addition to owning the rights to the story, it's been said that De Niro will star in the film as a magician who takes Blaine under his wing. While MGM Pictures confirmed that Trick Monkey is on their development list, publicists for De Niro's production company, Tribeca Productions, which develops projects in which De Niro serves as producer, director and/or actor, said they had no information available on the film.
Jim Uhls, whose last project was Fight Club starring Brad Pitt, has already written the screenplay.
No one's talking about who will play Blaine's various love interests.
We can tell De Niro's future
Well, we know this much anyway. We'll see several other De Niro projects before this one ever comes to fruition. In Showtime, about cops who go on a reality TV show to boost the department's image, De Niro stars with Eddie Murphy and Rene Russo. That just wrapped last month. Also wrapped are About a Boy, starring Hugh Grant, Rachel Weisz, Toni Collette and De Niro, and City by the Sea starring De Niro, Frances McDormand and James Franco.
Along with Billy Crystal, De Niro is also currently in talks to reprise his role as Paul Vitti in a sequel to Analyze This, Analyze This Too.
In 2001 Blaine will bring his magic show to Broadway, and Villard Books publish will his first book, Mysterious Stranger this fall.