This year, while I was at the Cannes Film Festival, there was one movie that I was in an absolute frenzy to see, even though it wasn’t actually playing as part of the festival. I kept hearing mention of marketplace screenings that were held for international distributors, and I did everything I could to sneak into one of them.
And why wouldn’t I be interested? After all, it’s based on a great novel by David Mitchell, it’s directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer, and it’s got a big sprawling cast that includes Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, and Ben Whishaw. There are very few big studio movies I’m more interested in or excited about than “Cloud Atlas,” so it was crushing to have to leave Cannes admitting defeat, the film still resolutely unseen by me.
Whenever I talked to someone who did get a chance to see it, though, the word was strong and fascinating. It sounded like they had put together something really special and, yes, ambitious, and I’ve been practically manic about it ever since. When it was announced as part of the Toronto International Film Festival, I was thrilled, and now we’ve got our first formal look at the movie courtesy of a much longer than normal trailer that Warner Bros. created specifically for online. There are MPAA rules about how long a movie trailer in the theater can be, so don’t expect to get a six minute trailer in front of “The Dark Knight Rises” or anything else, but enjoy this sprawling, gorgeous introductory piece that does a good job of showing how they’ve taken Mitchell’s impossible-to-film book and, somehow, filmed it.
The book tells a series of stories that are interrelated, but not in the ways you might think. It’s impressive to see that even in this short reel of footage, there’s already a sense of how they’re tying the stories together onscreen, and a big part of that is by having the same actors playing different roles in each of the stories. Extensive prosthetic make-up and elaborate special effects are involved, so you’ll get to see Hugo Weaving play a deranged figment of someone’s imagination, a sadistic nurse at a nursing home, and even a Korean man. You’ll get to see Halle Berry romance Tom Hanks after the end of the world, and you’ll get to see her as a white woman in our distant past, and you’ll see Hanks play a Vinnie Jones-style British tough guy as well as an explorer and, yes, one of the last humans on Earth.
And if you’d like to hear a little bit about why they’ve all approached the film this way, Apple’s got more than just the trailer up today. They also put up a special piece with Tom Tykwer, Lana Wachowski, and Andy Wachowski all explaining their approach to the movie. This is the first official behind-the-scenes anything I’ve seen with Lana Wachowski speaking about how the project came together, and I love that she’s comfortable enough now to speak for her film. Looking at this six minute preview, it seems perfectly fitting that this is the first time we’ve actually seen the name “Lana Wachowski” in the credits of a film. After all, this movie deals with the nature of identity and with the way one soul can take on many different forms over time.
It’s a safe bet that when the film has its first screening at the Toronto Film Festival in September, I’ll be in that audience, and I will absolutely have a review for you that night. In the meantime, this footage has set a tone and made a promise, and I am excited to see if the finished film will live up to that.
“Cloud Atlas” starts caving in skulls everywhere on October 26, 2012.