Tag Archives: Hugo Weaving

“Cloud Atlas” (2012) – Movie Review

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Writer / Directors:  Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, and Tom Tykwer

Stars:  Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, James Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Hugh Grant, Ben Whishaw, Keith David, James D’Arcy, and Susan Sarandon

It’s very rare that you watch a completely original film that defies categorizing, but Cloud Atlas does just that.  The movie is based on a book of the same name and was directed by the Wachowski siblings and Tom Tykwer.  The story, as it is, takes place across many different time periods following the paths of people who have a distinct birth mark:  a falling star.  Chronologically we go from the early 1800’s on a ship crossing the Pacific, to the 193o’s at an English estate, to the 1970’s in San Francisco, to Present day England, to a near-future Megapolis New Seoul, and finally a post-apocalyptic primitive village.  In the film we continually jump from era to era and back again.

Cloud Atlas commands your immediate attention.  It opens in the post-apocalyptic future with an old Tom Hanks telling a story.  But though Hanks is speaking English, it is truncated and in partial metaphor–“be honest with me” becomes “on true true”.  In other words, you don’t exactly follow everything he is saying.  Over the course of the next ten minutes we jump on a whirlwind journey from era to era meeting all the main characters.  It is important to note that all the lead characters play multiple roles across the film and each appear in all the stories–sometimes as major and sometimes as minor characters.

The overall point of the film is to show how we keep coming back to relive the same story over and over again.  But more importantly, hopefully we learn to make the right decisions as time goes by.  From that point-of-view, the nominal protagonists are Tom Hanks and James Broadbent.  Of all the characters, they have the most complete arc–who they are at the end of the film is not the same person as in the beginning.  In the case of Tom Hanks, this is symbolized by a sapphire button that constantly comes into the life of all his characters.  Along the same lines, Hugh Grant and Hugo Weaving are nominally the antagonists–never-changing and always evil.  The most sympathetic characters are Robert Frobisher (Ben Whishaw) and Sonmi-451 (Doona Bae).  Though each actor also has multiple roles, their portrayal of those specific characters are so engaging and eventually heartbreaking that their other performances pale in comparison.

With so many actors playing so many roles, it is inevitable that some succeed and others don’t.  Halle Berry always seems to be Halle Berry.  Hugo Weaving seems to be delivering a slightly different version of Agent Smith from the Matrix films for each of his roles–with the exception of his character in the post-apocalyptic future.  Jim Sturgess fares better and could possibly have an action/adventure movie or two in him.  But the revelations are Tom Hanks, Hugh Grant, and James D’Arcy.  Though you always recognize Tom Hanks, each of his characters are unique.  Hugh Grant was virtually unrecognizable in each of his roles with the exception of his character in the 1970’s.  As for James D’Arcy, he gave some of the best and nuanced performances in the entire film.

Visually, the film is spectacular.  Each time and place are clearly realized.  The Wachowski siblings and Tykwer are experts at putting every bit of their budget on-screen–the movie looks more expensive that what it is.   As for the challenge of having three directors for one film?  It was ingeniously handled.  The Wachowki’s directed certain time periods while Tykwer the others.

The make-up was also very well handled.  At the end of the film during the credits you are showed each actor and all the roles they played, and are surprised by the ones you missed.  Though there was the occasional awkward looking character, you bought each actor in each role.

Cloud Atlas was also deftly edited.  Each story had a beginning middle and end, and all were edited together so the overall film also had a beginning middle and end.

But what Cloud Atlas lacks is a connection between the audience and the stories.  In giving a voice to all the characters and all their stories, not enough time is given to each to allow the audience to care.

Grade = B-

“Captain America” – Review

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Director:  Joe Johnston
Writers:  Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, Two Others
Stars:  Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Tommy Lee Jones, Hayley Atwell
I really enjoyed Captain America.  It’s a good superhero, popcorn, and summer movie.  It is also very reminiscent of Raiders of the Lost Ark, which they reference when Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) mentions that the Furor is looking for trinkets in the desert.  Part of the fun of watching this film was catching all the references:  the Wilhelm scream, the speeder bikes from Return of the Jedi sound effects during the motorcycle chase in the jungle, and others.
The story is straightforward and does a good job of helping you identify with Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), aka Captain America.  The scenes in the beginning of the film when he is a ninety-eight pound weakling are surprisingly effective.  If you are familiar with the comics, then you’ll recognize the origin story is fairly accurate, with some add-ons from the pre-Samuel L. Jackson influenced Nick Fury character.  You also feel for the character when he realizes that he is wasting his potential on the USO tour to promote war-bonds instead of fighting the enemy.  Chris Evans is decent; Tommy Lee Jones steals every scene he is in;  and both Hugo Weaving and Hayley Atwell are really good.  Credit must also be given to the writers for how the movie begins; the Titanic style present-day shots caught me by surprise.  The direction was good, and the look of the film was great.  Though I will say that I do not like it when cutting-edge technology of the past looks a little too similar to cutting-edge technology of today–the pod in which the Captain is created and the controls of the enemy flying wing, for example.  But those are minor quibbles.  This is a good movie for the whole family on a Saturday afternoon.
Grade:  B
P.S.  Captain America tangent:  though I only purchased a few issues of Captain America when I actively read and collected comics, for some reason the character resonates with me.  It really affected me a few years ago when Marvel killed the character at the end of their Civil War story line.  I also like how they depict him in the Ultimates Universe.  I don’t know.  Maybe it’s a yearning for a simpler more good vs. evil time that he represents, but I really like the Captain America character.  I’m happy the filmmakers did a good job with this film, and we will see him again in the upcoming Avengers movie.    Thank you for giving Cap his due.