When news broke that the James Bond film franchise was set to make it to film 25, to put it bluntly, I didn’t care. Good for all the longtime fans, but I’ll take a pass. However, should the next two installments be anything like “Skyfall,” bring on the Bond!
When James Bond’s (Daniel Craig) mission in Istanbul goes awry, a hard drive containing the identities of embedded agents winds up in enemy hands. The incident leads Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), the new Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, to insist on M’s (Judi Dench) retirement. She sticks to her guns and vows to recover the drive, but when MI6 is bombed, M comes to realize she’s got no one to trust – except Bond. Bond returns, but in a subpar state, off his game both mentally and physically. However, this is 007 we’re talking about and he’s got just enough juice left to take on the culprit, the sadistic Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem).
As someone without a long-term love of the 007 franchise, the Daniel Craig iterations of the series were just any old spy movies. Yes, “Casino Royale” is superior to the lot, but without having grown up on the Bond movies, there’s never been a reason to have an emotional stake in the character – until now.
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Usually when I catch a movie, I’m busy scribbling down notes, some of which pertain to the film’s plot, just so I’ve got the facts straight when writing the review. However, in the case of “Cloud Atlas,” not only did I want to save my hand all that stress, but thought it’d be interesting to see what stuck after the 164-minute multiple storyline epic without writing a single note or looking at the press notes. No book, no notes, no Googling. This is what I took from “Cloud Atlas.”
We’ve got quite a few characters and storylines in play here. There’s Tom Hanks’ Zachary, a man living in a village, fighting off a vicious enemy tribe while assisting Halle Berry’s space-age character in her quest to send a call for help to her home planet. In the 1800s, one of Jim Sturgess’ characters befriends an escaped slave while sailing home to his wife. In the early 1900s, Ben Whishaw’s Frobisher goes to work for a famous composer where he gets the inspiration to pen the Cloud Atlas Sextet. In the 1970s, Berry is a journalist who catches wind of a scandal and is chased by a corporation assassin trying to stop her from exposing the story. In the present we get Timothy Cavendish, a man who’s tricked into signing himself into an old age home by his brother. Finally, well into the future, we meet Sonmi, one of many identical robot-like humans who are made to staff a fast food restaurant. They’re designed to sleep in their boxes, wake and go to work, but one day, Sonmi can’t help, but to recognize that she’s got hopes, dreams and feelings.
I can’t believe it, but I think I actually managed to account for every “Cloud Atlas” scenario. Yes, they’re merely simplistic descriptions of the stories, but when you’ve got a total of six narratives within a single film that don’t connect on a literal level and are all playing out simultaneously, it’s a wonder how someone can keep track of them all after a single viewing. And perhaps that goes to show that writer-directors Tom Tykwer, Lana Wachowski and Andy Wachowski did achieve a degree of success with their unusual methods.
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