Movie Project #24: Mystic River [2003]

50 Movies Project #4: Contemporary Edition

The 50 Movies Project is an annual tradition at The Warning Sign. Every year, I select 50 movies that I feel I must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. This year I’m focusing on contemporary films (1980 to present day) that I somehow haven’t gotten around to seeing yet.

Mystic River [2003]

Mystic River [2003] 
Director: Clint Eastwood
Writers: Brian Helgeland (screenplay), Dennis Lehane (novel)
Country: USA
Genre: Crime/Drama/Mystery
Starring: Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne
Running Time: 138 minutes

In Clint Eastwood’s Oscar-nominated drama, Mystic River, the gut-wrenching feeling of guilt hangs over the head of every major character, all because of one fateful day in Boston in the summer of 1975.

Three boys, no more than ten years old each, are playing street hockey when one of them notices a fresh batch of cement on the sidewalk. Naturally, they grab a stick and take turns writing their names in it. A man driving by notices this, stops his car and scolds the three boys. He flashes a badge and demands to give one of them a ride home to tell his mother what he was doing. Unfortunately, this man is no cop, and he abducts the poor boy as his friends watch him ride away. It isn’t until days later that the boy escapes his captors, his life forever scarred.

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Movie Project #16: Unbreakable [2000]

50 Movies Project #4: Contemporary Edition

The 50 Movies Project is an annual tradition at The Warning Sign. Every year, I select 50 movies that I feel I must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. This year I’m focusing on contemporary films (1980 to present day) that I somehow haven’t gotten around to seeing yet.

Unbreakable [2000]

Unbreakable [2000] 
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Writer: M. Night Shyamalan
Country: USA
Genre: Drama/Mystery/Sci-Fi
Starring: Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Wright, Spencer Treat Clark
Running Time: 106 minutes

Riding the wave of success from the massive box office hit, The Sixth Sense, M. Night Shyamalan immediately followed with Unbreakable, a superhero origin film that has become quite a cult favorite since. Many would argue that this is his best film, though that’s hardly a bold position given his recent output.

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Mystery Road [2013] Movie Review

Mystery Road [2013]

Mystery Road [2013] 
Director: Ivan Sen
Writer: Ivan Sen
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Starring: Aaron Pedersen, Hugo Weaving, Ryan Kwanten
Running Time: 112 minutes

Mystery Road is a slow burn thriller with western elements set in the dusty Australian Outback. It’s a film that’s not afraid to take its time setting up the story, and its methodical pacing is both a blessing and a curse.

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Movie Project #12: Incendies [2010]

50 Movies Project #4: Contemporary Edition

The 50 Movies Project is an annual tradition at The Warning Sign. Every year, I select 50 movies that I feel I must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. This year I’m focusing on contemporary films (1980 to present day) that I somehow haven’t gotten around to seeing yet.

Incendies [2010]

Incendies [1989]
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writers: Denis Villeneuve, Wajdi Mouawad, Valérie Beaugrand-Champagne
Country: Canada, France
Genre: Drama/Mystery/War
Starring: Lubna Azabal, Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin, Maxim Gaudette, Rémy Girard
Running Time: 139 minutes

The very first shot of Incendies, the Oscar-nominated French-Canadian drama from director Denis Velleneuve (Prisoners, Enemy), shows a serene Middle Eastern landscape. As we watch the leaves of a palm tree sway in the wind, Radiohead’s mesmeric “You and Whose Army?” begins to play. The camera slowly pans indoors, taking us into a grimy room full of young boys waiting in line to get their heads shaved. The children stand there, mostly emotionless, as a group of young men, likely teenagers, stand guard with assault rifles. Eventually, the camera settles on the young boy who is currently having his head shaved. As the song reaches its crescendo, the shot zooms in on the young boy’s bone-chilling expression with eyes that will pierce your soul. It’s an unforgettable and flawless introduction to a film that has the potential to shake you down to your bones.

Incendies then moves to present day in Montreal, as twin siblings Jeanne (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) and Simon (Maxim Guadette) are brought together to hear the will of their recently deceased mother, Nawal (Lubna Azabal). They learn that their mother had two final requests for them, both of which would require a trip to the Middle East. Jeanne is to deliver a letter to their father, who they never knew and weren’t even aware was still alive. Simon is to bring a letter to a brother that they had no idea existed. This sounds like the setup for what could be a solid mystery film, but Incendies sets itself apart by opting for a unique dual narrative structure.

Incendies [2010]

As we watch Jeanne and Simon explore the unnamed Middle Eastern country of which their mother was from, we are given glimpses of the rough and tumultuous life Nawal lived before they were born. Back then, their mother’s home country was in the midst of a civil war driven by religious extremists. She was immediately caught in the crossfire simply because she was a Christian who was dating a Muslim. A series of tragedies surrounds young Nawal, sending her on a cross-country journey of self-discovery, one in which violence and brutality appears to be around every corner.

Remnants of the past remain everywhere in this country in its present day, and Jeanne even discovers that there are those who will immediately shun her for simply mentioning her mother’s name. Clearly, Nawal left a lasting impression in her homeland. This is all a bit of a shock to Jeanne and Simon, as their mother had purposefully hid this part of her life from her children. In the midst of war and turmoil, anyone is capable of unthinkable actions, their mother included.

Incendies [2010]

At the core of Incendies is a deep, gut-wrenching secret, one that is not immediately apparent even when it is alluded to on screen. At first, I found this revelation to be off-putting. It relied on a few too many convenient coincidences for my liking. Yet as I sat and thought about the film, I fell more and more in love with it. This isn’t a shock ending for the sake of it; it’s a reflection on humanity, war and the type of love that can only be provided and shared by a family.

Incendies is an extraordinary film that immediately leaves an impact, one that will linger for weeks, months or even years. It’s deeply personal and sometimes hard to watch, but, astonishingly, it somehow brings a glimmer of hope in the midst of rape, murder and other atrocities.

9/10

Movie Project #40: The Secret in Their Eyes [2009]

The 50 Movies Project: 2013 Edition

In what has become an annual tradition, I have decided to embark in a third round of the 50 Movies Project. The premise is simple — I have put together a list of 50 movies that I feel I absolutely must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. With so many films to see, it’s easy to get off track and forget about some of the essentials. This is my way of making sure I watch those that have been on my “must see” list for too long.

The Secret in Their Eyes [2009]

The Secret in Their Eyes [2009]
Director: Juan José Campanella
Writers: Eduardo Sacheri (writer), Juan José Campanella (writer), Eduardo Sacheri (novel “La pregunta de sus ojos”)
Country: Argentina
Genre: Drama/Mystery/Thriller
Starring: Ricardo Darín, Soledad Villamil, Pablo Rago, Javier Godino, Guillermo Francella
Running Time: 129 minutes

“A guy can change anything. His face, his home, his family, his girlfriend, his religion, his God. But there’s one thing he can’t change. He can’t change his passion…”

In The Secret in Their Eyes, this quote, provided by a relatively minor character, Pablo Sandoval (Guillermo Francella), works on so many levels. Sandoval’s passion is booze, and he can’t break his love of whiskey, much to the chagrin of his impatient wife. Yet Sandoval is a functional drunk, and he provides a worthy friend and companion to Benjamin Esposito (Ricardo Darin), the film’s main protagonist.

Esposito is a retired legal counselor who is struggling to write his first novel, based on a horrific rape/murder case he worked on some 25 years ago. Seeking guidance from his former boss, Irene Hastings (Soledad Villamil), he begins examining the past events surrounding the case while also seeking possible new information during the present day.

The Secret in Their Eyes [2009]

The film goes back and forth between these two time periods — 1974 and 1999 — demonstrating the failures of the Argentinean’s justice system at the time. In 1974, when Esposito gets a lead on the possible murderer, his superiors are all too dismissive of his work. For them, they would rather take the easy way out and pin the crime on two completely innocent manual laborers; that is their rather unfortunate form of justice.

Yet Esposito refuses to give up until the right man is caught and behind bars. This legal case is his passion, and he is able to instill the help of both Hastings and Sandoval, even though both of them would rather let the past stay in the past. In one particularly impressive scene, Esposito and Sandoval head to a raucous soccer match in hopes of finding their lead suspect, a devoted fan of Racing Club. The entire film is full of slick camerawork, but it is here where Juan José Campanella’s vision truly shines. An extended take shows the action high above the stadium, where the camera then goes in above the pitch and into the crowd where the two investigators are entrapped among thousands of screaming and singing fans. It’s a remarkable scene, and it only intensifies when the main suspect is spotted, starting off a frenetic foot race throughout the stadium.

The Secret in Their Eyes [2009]

Even with so much of Esposito’s attention focused on this case, it is clear he has another passion: his long-time colleague, Irene Hastings. For whatever reason — partly due to his lack of self confidence — he struggles to make his move on his very attractive co-worker, despite her not-so-subtle hints otherwise. Their buried romance adds another layer to the case, even as they struggle to remember the past and their own fallacies.

Finally, there is the devastated widow of the murder victim, Ricardo Morales (Pablo Rago). It’s clear that his passion is his wife, and after her tragic death, he does everything in his power to find her murderer, even sitting for entire days at the train station, waiting for him to show his face. Esposito forms a sort-of friendship with Morales, vowing to help him solve this case.

With so many plot lines in play, it would be easy for the film to become a bit of a mess. That’s not the case at all here — the transitions between past and present day are smooth, and the mashup of thriller, crime drama and romance feels effortless. This is a film that fires on all cylinders, delivering a gut-wrenching story with an unexpected ending, one that no one can soon forget.

9/10

Movie Project #38: Rosemary’s Baby [1968]

The 50 Movies Project: 2013 Edition

In what has become an annual tradition, I have decided to embark in a third round of the 50 Movies Project. The premise is simple — I have put together a list of 50 movies that I feel I absolutely must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. With so many films to see, it’s easy to get off track and forget about some of the essentials. This is my way of making sure I watch those that have been on my “must see” list for too long.

Rosemary's Baby [1968]

Rosemary’s Baby [1968]
Director: Roman Polanski
Writers: Ira Levin (novel), Roman Polanski (screenplay)
Country: USA
Genre: Drama/Horror/Mystery
Starring: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer, Ralph Bellamy
Running Time: 136 minutes

I will never look at chocolate mousse the same way again.

Rosemary’s Baby (based on the best-selling 1967 novel of the same name) tells the bizarrely horrific story of young and naive housewife, Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow). After she moves into a luxurious new NYC apartment with her husband, a TV/radio actor named Guy (John Cassavetes), the newlyweds are introduced to an elderly couple next door. These neighbors, Minnie (Ruth Gordon) and Roman Castevet (Sidney Blackmer), are eccentric but also very friendly, and they immediately take an interest to the Woodhouses.

While the Castevets initially appear to be harmless, there is definitely something peculiar about them. For one, shortly after meeting them, Rosemary and Guy seem to run into an unexpected string of good luck. Guy, after failing to get a part in a major production, gets a phone call the next morning saying that the original actor was badly injured, and the part is now his. And Rosemary, eagerly wanting to start a family, becomes pregnant with relative ease.

Nevermind that on the night of conception, Rosemary has a terrifying dream that she was raped by the Devil himself. Nevermind that on that same night, she had blacked out after eating some seemingly tainted chocolate mousse from Minnie.

Rosemary's Baby [1968]

Poor, poor Rosemary. Now pregnant, she is forced to listen to advice from everyone around her. Minnie and Roman push a new doctor, Dr. Abraham Sapirstein (Ralph Bellamy), a good friend of theirs, onto her, and he provides medical advice that is anything but conventional. His recommendation is to avoid pills in favor of drinking a strange herb cocktail that Minnie brings over every day. And so it goes, with the Castevets, Dr. Sapirstein and even Guy pushing a bizarre regimen onto Rosemary, who takes it all in like the submissive housewife that she is. She has her suspicions, but she is so blind in her trust to her new friends that she listens to them for far too long.

Rosemary’s Baby is effective because it excels in building the suspense while making us question just what is real and what isn’t. While there’s clearly something wrong, nothing in the film is entirely black-and-white. Perhaps Rosemary is just struggling to cope mentally with her newfound pregnancy? Hell, she’s not even sure what to believe, even as a close friend leaves behind a telling book about the occult.

Rosemary's Baby [1968]

Mia Farrow is also the perfect fit for Rosemary, as she has a childlike sensibility that makes her come across as so innocent and vulnerable. While Rosemary is clearly intelligent, she is too submissive for her own good. Her naivity is perhaps a sign of the times, but it’s a little hard to digest in today’s age. There were so many times where I just wanted to yell at her to stand up for herself — but alas, the others continued to prey on her, controlling her body and pregnancy to fit their needs.

As such, Rosemary’s Baby is a harrowing watch, and it has a masterful way of getting under your skin. It’s also darkly comic at times, especially when the Castevets are on screen. Ruth Gordon won an Oscar for her performance as Minnie, and her overbearing personality is both amusing and alarming. This film is a shining example of how to effectively craft psychological horror, even with the ineptitude of our frail young protagonist.

8.5/10

Movie Project #26: Rebecca [1940]

The 50 Movies Project: 2013 Edition

In what has become an annual tradition, I have decided to embark in a third round of the 50 Movies Project. The premise is simple — I have put together a list of 50 movies that I feel I absolutely must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. With so many films to see, it’s easy to get off track and forget about some of the essentials. This is my way of making sure I watch those that have been on my “must see” list for too long.

Rebecca [1940]

Rebecca [1940]
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Writer: Daphne Du Maurier (novel), Robert E. Sherwood (screen play), Joan Harrison (screen play), Philip MacDonald (adaptation), Michael Hogan (adaptation)
Country: USA
Genre: Drama/Mystery/Thriller
Starring: Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, George Sanders
Running Time: 130 minutes

Reason for inclusion: This is one of the most highly-regarded Hitchcock films that I still needed to see.

Accolades: Won two Oscars (Best Picture, Best B&W Cinematography) + 7 other nominations, #80 on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Thrills, #31 on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Heroes and Villains, #126 on IMDB Top 250

It still baffles me that out of Alfred Hitchcock’s distinguished reputation and extensive filmography, he never once won an Oscar for Best Director. In fact, Rebecca, his very first American film, is his only Best Picture winner. Despite its accolades, Rebecca always seems to somehow get lost in the shuffle. This certainly happened to me, as it is somewhere around the tenth Hitchcock film I have seen. Make no mistake — this is a fantastic film that deserves to be mentioned among his best.

Rebecca tells the story of a young woman (Joan Fontaine), never identified by name, who works as a paid companion of a wealthy businesswoman (Florence Bates). While accompanying her boss on vacation in Monte Carlo, the young woman meets a lonely aristocratic widow named Maximilian de Winter (Laurence Olivier). Despite obvious differences in class and social stigma, the two hit it off, and Maxim invites her to go back to his glorious mansion, Manderley. Within just a couple of weeks, the two are married.

Rebecca [1940]

The new Mrs. de Winter has seemed to reinvigorate Maxim with a new outlook on life, but she is constantly under pressure in Manderley. The presence of Maxim’s past wife, Rebecca, is everywhere. Her former bedroom is still sealed shut, left exactly as it was when she passed on in a mysterious boating accident. Pictures and memorabilia from the deceased are everywhere in the estate, and the servants frequently remark on how wonderful Rebecca was.

The worst offender is the lead housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson). She is seemingly still obsessed with Rebecca, and her unwelcoming demeanor consistently puts the new bride on edge. There’s something off-putting about this long-time resident, though exactly what it is doesn’t become apparent until the final act.

Now, as someone who has seen nearly a dozen Hitchcock films, I should have expected a twist. Yet ol’ Hitch managed to pull a fast one on me here. After what appears to be a fairly straightforward gothic melodrama about a blossoming (but struggling) relationship in the first act, the film goes in a completely different direction. Secrets are revealed, motivations are announced, and back stories told. This eventually culminates in a fiery conclusion that again feels strikingly different from the rest of the film.

Rebecca [1940]

Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine and Judith Anderson all received Oscar nominations for their performances. While Olivier is certainly memorable in this, it is the two ladies that truly impress. Fontaine is the typical Hitchcock leading blonde, but she perfectly displays the naivete of someone completely out of her element, yet one who also wants to make the best of her new situation. Anderson’s performance is ice cold, and her character’s evil nature earned inclusion in AFI’s 100 Villains list.

Rebecca is not the type of thriller that Hitchcock would later become known for, but it is a haunting mystery that effortlessly managed to keep me guessing throughout. While the director would perfect his craft in later years, this is still an excellent film that is more than deserving of its accolades.

9/10

Movie Project #18: Three Colors: Red [1994]

The 50 Movies Project: 2013 Edition

In what has become an annual tradition, I have decided to embark in a third round of the 50 Movies Project. The premise is simple — I have put together a list of 50 movies that I feel I absolutely must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. With so many films to see, it’s easy to get off track and forget about some of the essentials. This is my way of making sure I watch those that have been on my “must see” list for too long.

Three Colors: Red [1994]

Three Colors: Red [1994]
Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Screenplay: Krzysztof Piesiewicz and Krzysztof Kieślowski
Country: France/Poland/Switzerland
Genre: Drama/Mystery/Romance
Starring: Irène Jacob, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Frédérique Feder
Running Time: 99 minutes

Reason for inclusion: The Three Colors trilogy is widely considered to be among the best trilogies in history, and it has been a major blind spot for me. I had also never seen a Krzysztof Kieslowski film before this project.

Accolades: Three Oscar nominations (Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Original Screenplay), Palme d’Or nomination, Best Foreign Language Film from National Board Review, five César Award nominations, four BAFTA nominations, entry in Roger Ebert’s Great Movies, Criterion Collection

In closing out the Three Colors trilogy, Red follows the French ideal of fraternity. Here we have a number of individuals that are all connected in some way, often without them truly knowing it.

Valentine Dussaut (Irène Jacob) is a beautiful young woman who stays busy by modeling and taking ballet lessons. One night while driving home from dance practice, she accidentally hits a German Shepherd with her car. Valentine finds the owner’s address on the dog’s collar and drives in that direction (presumably the owner is closer than an animal hospital). She notifies the owner, an old reclusive ex-judge named Joseph Kern (Jean-Louis Trintignant), though he seems completely ambivalent to the incident. He tells Valentine to keep the dog, which she does, and promptly takes it to the vet.

Three Colors: Red [1994]

Later, the dog, now fixed up thanks to the vet, runs away, ultimately going back to the judge’s house. Valentine rushes over there and discovers that Kern is eavesdropping on his neighbor’s telephone conversation. Apparently this is his post-retirement hobby, ad he has been doing this illegally for years. Valentine is appalled by his behavior, and she leaves with her dog, vowing never to return.

Yet there is something that keeps bringing these two together, and they form a platonic friendship despite their obscenely different views on voyeurism.

Another important relationship comes in the form of Valentine’s neighbor, Auguste (Jean-Pierre Lorit), and his girlfriend, Karin (Frederique Feder). They are seemingly in love, but little problems keep popping up between the two of them, as is wont in ill-destined relationships. Auguste’s life is startlingly similar to that of a young Kern, and he keeps ending up in a series of near-miss encounters with Valentine.

Three Colors: Red [1994]

Fate is continuously acknowledged via these coincidences. Perhaps Valentine and Kern would have made a great couple if they had been able to meet at the same age; after all, they seem to be kindred spirits. It is possible that it is now her destiny to be with Auguste, who is currently going through a series of events similar to those that eventually made Kern a recluse.

The performances here are fantastic — the unlikely friendship between Valentine and Kern feels effortlessly authentic thanks to Jacob and Trintignant — and there is certainly a lot of depth to the film. Red asks the most questions out of the trilogy, and there are so many layers that it is impossible to unravel them in just one viewing. My gut reaction was an appreciation of the film, but I didn’t fall in love with it like I did Blue and, to a lesser extent, White. I suspect that this may change on later viewings, as now I know what to expect, and I can pick up on the subtle clues that Kieslowski drops throughout the film. I would love to revisit this sometime down the road, but as it stands now, this ranks third in the trilogy for me.

8/10

Movie Review: Stoker [2013]

Stoker [2013]

Stoker [2013]
Director: Chan-wook Park
Screenplay: Wentworth Miller, Erin Cressida Wilson (contributing writer)
Genre: Drama/Mystery/Thriller
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode
Running Time: 99 minutes

Stoker will forever be known as Chan-wook Park’s first English language feature film, and the comparisons to his Vengeance trilogy are hard to avoid. However, it is best to go into his latest film with an open mind. Stoker is strong enough to stand on its own, comparisons be damned.

The film begins with a funeral for Richard Stoker (Dermot Mulroney), a wealthy man who passed away in a car accident on his daughter India’s (Mia Wasikowska) 18th birthday. She remains in the care of her estranged mother, Evelyn (Nicole Kidman), but they are soon joined by Richard’s long-lost brother, Charlie (Matthew Goode). Right off the bat it seems that something is amiss with Charlie. Goode plays him to smarmy perfection as he weasels his way into the household. Evelyn falls for his charms rather quickly; India, not so much.

Stoker [2013]

India is a complex girl. She’s quiet and often gets picked on at school, but she’s also not afraid to stand up for herself. The loss of her father has clearly been quite damaging, and Charlie’s insistence on building a friendship with her is not exactly welcomed. Yet as she learns more about her seemingly-vagrant uncle, she begins to discover things about herself that she perhaps didn’t know before.

As such, Stoker is something of a “coming of age” tale. However, it’s unlike any such tale you have seen before. After all, this is a Chan-wook Park film with a screenplay written by Prison Break star, Wentworth Miller. Stoker is completely unnerving during its entire running time, and it seems determined to leave its audiences feeling as uncomfortable as possible. Violence is kept to a minimum, but Park plays with a number of social taboos, all using a distinct visual style that only he can offer. His use of color and flawless transition shots are a thing of beauty, even if at times they do distract from the film itself.

Stoker [2013]

The cast here is terrific, led by the very talented Mia Wasikowska. Best known for playing Alice in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, Wasikowska thrives in this much, much darker role. It’s also great to see Nicole Kidman deliver another strong performance in her limited screen time, but perhaps most surprising is Matthew Goode. He has one of those faces where he feels instantly familiar, but beyond his pretty face is a disturbing interior that comes out more and more throughout the film. While Wasikowska is the star, Goode is the one who keeps the wheels turning.

Stoker is arguably Chan-wook Park’s most accessible work, but it’s still not for everyone (even notable amongst critics, given its 66% Rotten Tomatoes average). For those willing to brave the incommodious atmosphere, this is a rare great film released during the first quarter of the year. Park has transferred his talent masterfully to Hollywood, and I can’t wait to see where he goes next.

8/10

Movie Review: Cloud Atlas [2012]

Cloud Atlas [2012]

Cloud Atlas [2012]
Directors: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski
Genre: Drama/Mystery/Sci-Fi
Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Jim Broadbent, Doona Bae
Running Time: 172 minutes

Cloud Atlas is a mess, a huge, sprawling epic that jumps through different time periods at will. It’s also one of the most interesting films I have seen all year.

Based on the “unfilmable” novel of the same name, Cloud Atlas tells six different stories from six time periods — from 1849 to present day and far beyond. Each story uses different characters, but they all appear to be connected in some way. The film is here to show us how the lives of others impact those in the future, and that we as humans are connected regardless of our race and gender.

Cloud Atlas [2012]

With a running time of nearly three hours, there’s a lot to digest. The film itself is visually stunning and begs to be seen on the big screen, and it has an especially impressive score (composed by the trio of Tom Tykwer, Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek). On aesthetics alone, Cloud Atlas is a treat. However, I’m still trying to wrap my head around what I watched.

It’s no secret that a film of this magnitude will welcome a second viewing (at least). I spent a great deal of time trying to piece together just how each story was connected, and I kept an eye out for subtle (and not-so-subtle) hints that put the different eras together. With so many stories and characters to keep track of, it’s impossible to pull it altogether after one viewing.

Cloud Atlas [2012]

This will infuriate some viewers, no doubt, and I’m not sure the payoff is as exceptional as it could be. Regardless, it can be a challenge to keep us entertained for a full three hours, and I was genuinely enthralled for the vast majority of the feature. With so much going on, you really do need to give this your full attention.

It helps to have an absolute star-studded cast at the disposal of the film, and it’s a lot of fun to look out for the same actors in each time period. Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess and Hugh Grant appear in every single story, always playing different characters (some major, some not). Hanks, in particular, is greatly entertaining, especially as the 2012 writer, Dermot Higgins, who is responsible for one of the film’s most shocking moments.

Cloud Atlas [2012]

Much controversy has been raised about the use of white actors playing Asians in this film. Normally I am against this so-called “yellowface” tactic, but there is no underlying racism here. This film is meant to show how we are all connected, regardless of race, and it’s not just white people playing minorities here. Both Halle Berry and Doona Bae (the popular South Korean actress) play white women at one point. Although sometimes the heavy makeup used by these characters becomes distracting, I thought that using this same group of stars for multiple roles was a brave choice, and the correct one at that.

Cloud Atlas has received wildly mixed reviews, which should be a surprise to no one. The buzz word going around is that the film is “ambitious” and for some this is a good thing, while for others it is not. I like a lot of what the film tries to do, and it is an entertaining “mess” as I mentioned earlier. Some plot threads could have been tightened up, and a few scenes felt unnecessary in the grand scheme of things, but for the most part the film succeeds. Love it or hate it, there hasn’t been another film like Cloud Atlas this year.

7/10