Tom Hanks leads a cast that includes Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Ben Wishaw and Jim Broadbent, all of whom play multiple roles in a story that weaves in and out of timelines, each character’s actions impacting on the lives of the others in the past, the present and the future. It is, to the say the least, an ambitious project, and there’s no doubt that those who have read the novel will cope better with the complex structure than those coming to the story fresh — indeed, it’s notable that the film boasts no less than three directors in Tom Twyker, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski. And yet, for all its complicated set-up, Cloud Atlas essentially trades in human frailty as successive characters strive to escape from fate, ignorance, hatred and prejudice in a bid to carve our their own concept of freedom. Some of the storylines are less compelling than others — the futuristic setting of ‘New Seoul’, for example, in which Messiah-in-waiting Somni 451 (Doona Bae) discovers her true mission in life, comes off as little more than a sci-fi shoot-’em-up — but there are very strong performances throughout: Wishaw excels as the frustrated composer Robert Frobisher, Jim Broadbent is hilarious as the arch-spoofer publisher Timothy Cavendish, and Tom Hanks puts in a poignant turn as the storyteller Zachry, who frames the entire narrative. Challenging, frustrating, engrossing and very long — it runs to nearly three hours — Cloud Atlas may well be too faithful to its source material for its own good, but it still makes for marvellous cinema.
The Hardy Bucks Movie (16s) also feels overly long, but perhaps that’s because it’s a feature-length story of a TV series that made a virtue of its brevity. The bucks in question hail from ‘Castletown’ in Co Mayo, and represent the rather withered flower of Irish manhood: bored rigid by life in rural Ireland, the lads — led by Eddie Durkin (Martin Maloney) — are interested only in sex, football, drugs and more sex. The hook here is that the Castletown lads head for Poland in the summer of 2012 to support the Boys in Green during the Euro Championships, but you hardly need me to tell you that the best laid plans of mice and lads on the lash go awry just as soon as their battered Hi-Ace van claps out. Shot on hand-held cameras, and apparently ad-libbed to the point where you start to wonder if there was ever a script involved, the movie is crudely constructed but also, on occasion, very funny. The unpolished performances, and particularly the broad accents, contribute hugely to the gaiety of watching unreconstructed Irish lads cope with the pressures of negotiating the world beyond their parish confines. But while the laugh-out-loud moments are the highlights, there’s also a touching innocence to their attempts to prove themselves sophisticated men of the world. Directed with gusto by Mike Cockayne, the movie outstays its welcome by at least half an hour, but until then it’s good old-fashioned dirty fun.
From the ridiculous to the sublime: To the Wonder (15A) is the latest offering from director Terrence Malick, an impressionistic take on a relationship in which Neil (Ben Affleck) falls for Marina (Olga Kurylenko) while on a trip to Paris, and persuades her to relocate to America with her young daughter. Things do not end happily ever after, however, and soon the pair are reassessing everything they think they know about one another. At least, I think that’s the gist of the story: for the most part, the film features Kurylenko dancing about in slow-motion while Affleck stares glumly into the middle distance. It’s all very tastefully composed and framed, particularly if you’re a fan of watercolour landscapes, but it’s difficult to avoid the feeling that you’re watching a film student’s embarrassingly ardent love letter to his hero. Even diehard Malick fans will be hard pressed to argue that To the Wonder is of the same calibre as Badlands, The Thin Red Line or The Tree of Life.
The Hardy Bucks Movie ***