And it's beautiful, long, and dense. It's rare to see a nearly 3 hour movie that I immediately want to watch again to get all the connections in it. But I will say my first reaction was 'This is probably what D.W. Griffith was trying to achieve in INTOLERANCE: LOVE'S STRUGGLE THROUGHOUT THE AGES.' (I have a horrible confession to make--I found INTOLERANCE to be ponderous, confusing, and dull (albeit with amazing sets.) I don't think it makes me racist to say BIRTH OF A NATION is actually a better movie.)
Anyway, back to CLOUD ATLAS. Three directors, six stories spanning from 1849 to way in the future. And a recurring theme of either past lives (if you believe in that) or just how the threads we leave behind impact future lives until we get to the point where a man standing up to slavery in 1849 ultimately leads to a revolution of genetically engineered server girls in future Neo-Seoul. Ummm...but it's too much to wrap my head around in one screening so I'm not going to try to remember and map out all the connections. But I might just see it again and get more out of it.
I do want to say something about the multiple roles of nearly every actor and actress in the movie. This is definitely meant to emphasize the recurring lives theme. And I guess it ultimately works. But it's also distracting. I find myself paying less attention to the story and more attention to playing 'spot Tom Hanks/Halle Berry/Hugo Weaving/Jim Broadbent/Hugh Grant/Susan Sarandon/Doona Bae/etc.' And even that is okay except when they stretch so far that it just becomes distracting (Halle Berry as a Jew, Hugo Weaving as a woman, Doona Bae as a white woman, Doona Bae as a Mexican woman.) And I struggled a bit with this reaction. It strikes me as mildly racist to say I only want to see Halle Berry as a black woman, or I only want to see Doona Bae as a Korean (or freaky genetically engineered future Korean.) After all, a great actor or actress should not be so constrained. On the other hand, I can't help but feel that it was undeniably distracting. I guess I'll let the future decide if the fault is with me or with the film, but to me it felt more or less like a different form of blackface.
Oh, and as for seeing it in IMAX. Yeah, it's beautiful, and it's totally worth the IMAX experience. It's also the first time I checked out the IMAX screen at the AMC Mercado. It's a good screen, I liked it a lot. I don't think it's quite as big as the screens at Hacienda Crossings or the Metreon (the two IMAX screens I've typically gone to before in the Bay Area.) I don't have the exact measurements on that, so don't quote me on it, but it felt a little smaller. But here's the important thing--I like to sit in the front row. And the front row in other IMAX screens is kind of overwhelming. Here, it was big; I felt fully immersed in the movie, but not overwhelmed. It whelmed me just right.
Running Time: 172 minutes
My Total Minutes: 301,881