Immersive and all consuming – Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Cloud Atlas – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Cloud Atlas (2013)

Directors: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, and Lana Wachowski »
Writers: David Mitchell (novel), Lana Wachowski (written for the screen by), Tom Tykwer (written for the screen by), and Andy Wachowski (written for the screen by)
Stars: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant

The thing that makes this 3 hour extravaganza captivating and able to hold one’s imagination and attention for such a lengthy period of time is the perfect balancing of story peaks and troughs. Through each scene there is a sense of intrigue, mystery, and interconnectedness that helps you piece each story together. Not knowing how each will end but wanting to know how each life affects the others is part of the journey of this film.

I haven’t read the novel but I intend to. Mainly because I’m fascinated to see how the tension is built in written form because it works so perfectly in the film. The Wachowski’s and Tykwer have taken Mitchell’s story and transported it onto screen so that it stands alone as a fascinating visual journey. Through editing, careful scripting and the soundtrack scoring, the peaks are powerful and come at the perfect moments in each sequence. The audience isn’t treated as unintelligent and being pushed and prodded through the complexities of the story. This film seeks to challenge our thinking. It is the reason why I think people won’t like Cloud Atlas, but I hope my pessimism is proved wrong because the challenge is worth the work.

There have been few moments in my life when I have been so captivated by a story in film that my entire body reacts to what is happening on screen. I can watch a film and do twenty other things at the same time and be able to tell you what it was about. But this film, oh my, this film transported me. It immersed me so fully and completely in its world that my mind, body, and spirit was involved in this film to the extent that I was left at the end of the film with an emptiness I can hardly describe. I wanted to watch it again immediately. I wanted to explore the world more fully, I wanted to know the characters more completely, and I wanted to escape again into the world of Cloud Atlas.

I could talk about the actors, the great prosthetics, the fantastic special effects, the comedy of the old people, the language of the tribal people, but I would be here all day. Instead I would like to leave you with the desire to see this film because of the experience I had in it. I know that everyone’s experience with this film will be different. It’s like the first time you hear that song that transfixes you and you replay it over and over because you’ve fallen in love with it, but you’ll never reclaim that first imagining, that first experience. Cloud Atlas is an immersive and all consuming cinematic experience that you should experience for yourself. Be captivated.

4/5

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Get Gritty, Get Gorgeous – The Bourne Legacy

The Bourne Legacy - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

The Bourne Legacy – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

The Bourne Legacy (2012)

Director: Tony Gilroy
Writers: Tony Gilroy (screenplay & story), Dan Gilroy (screenplay), and Robert Ludlum (novel & inspiration)
Stars: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz and Edward Norton

The Bourne Legacy is the fourth in the Bourne franchise but it also the first movie with the main character of Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) instead of Jason Bourne (Matt Damon). The story picks up Cross as he is on a training exercise for the “program” in Alaska, and while Jason Bourne is running rite in Europe and America. With Bourne’s eradict behaviour and the light being shone on the CIA’s operations, they plan to shut the “program” down. This is where we find ourselves thrown into the action with Aaron Cross as he tries to survive the wildness of apparent death and the dependence on viral tablets that have been part of his treatment in the “program”.

After loving the Bourne Identity, Supremacy, and Ultimatum so much I was cautious walking into this film. But I came prepared with low expectations after reading a bad review from Empire Magazine. I shall never trust their reviewers again, and you will soon see why. I sat in my cinema seat with popcorn in hand as the lights dimmed and the familiar image of a body floating in water appeared on screen (a similar shot was used in The Bourne Identity to open the series). This time however it was Aaron Cross, diving into the depths of a river in Alaska. He emerged from the water as a wet, rugged, bearded, wild man in the form of Jeremy Renner. He wrapped himself with a blanket and stood in front of a fire on the icy shelter next to the river as the camera panned out to show us that he was standing in the middle of a snow covered wilderness. And it was at this moment that I knew the film was going to break my low expectations by far.

Renner plays a more vocal character than our beloved Bourne, however he performs with such strength, ferocity and charisma that you can’t help but be on his side as he fights to live. The story unfolds in two parts and by the end of the feature I felt like I had started in a different movie than the one I had ended up in. It wasn’t as cleverly devised as the originals but it captures the audience and takes them on a ride of adrenaline just the same. The action sequences are just as intense as in the originals and there is an added element of remorselessness in a lot of the action that wasn’t there in the originals but left me a little shaken and shocked. Renner surpassed my expectations of wonderful as he continued to show his unbelievable ability to be a rough and tough action hero. He isn’t your usual type of handsome for an action figure but he becomes more handsome the grittier he gets. And when sitting across from the gorgeous Rachel Weisz the screen screams sexy at you. The pair of actors make a formidable force on screen and with the added bit of evil provided by Edward Norton you can’t help but be captured by this film. Norton provides boundless amounts of terrifying intelligent evil to the movie and I would never want to work for his character because I would just end up in tears every day out of fright.

The Bourne Legacy follows the trilogy with a faithfulness to Ludlum’s world and provides a great next installment for the series. It may not be better than the original three but it certainly matches them for action and adventure.  I can’t decide now whether I prefer Bourne or Cross which is testament to Renner’s performance as Cross. He is charming and brilliant as well as vulnerable and fierce. The balance between Renner and Weisz solidifies the film and the story really makes you champion their cause. I really enjoyed this film and will definitely be seeing it again as soon as possible. Go and experience the awesome that is Aaron Cross and the irresistible Jeremy Renner.

A Unexpected Underdog – The Adventures of Merlin

Merlin - Poster from IMDB.com

Merlin – Poster from IMDB.com

The Adventures of Merlin (2008)

Creators: Julian Jones, Julian Murphy, Johnny Capps, Jake Michie
Stars: John Hurt, Colin Morgan and Bradley James

I wasn’t going to watch this show when it first started on TV but I ended up watching it, like everything I watch, because someone said I might like it and it had an Irish actor in it. So I started watching and then kept watching and haven’t stopped.

I was never very interested in magic, magicians, witches or anything like that as a kid and I totally missed the Harry Potter faze that most of my friend’s went through growing up. I was however a lover of the tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Growing up I really enjoyed the Sword In The Stone and the tale of a poor young boy who was actually the King of Camelot, proven for his character more than his birth right. I love a good underdog story and so when I worked out that this was a King Arthur tale I was in.

Now from saying the above you would think that I would’ve been quite disappointed with the adaptation of Merlin, however the first episode really grabbed me because instead of Arthur being the underdog, it was Merlin. The character of Merlin and his noble cause of seeking to stand up for the rights of those who were undermined and disadvantaged was one that really appealed to me. The cheesy humour and character relationships didn’t hurt either.

Colin Morgan who plays Merlin is an outstanding young actor and his innocence, naivety, and compassion are abounding as Merlin. He brings a real earthiness and humility to the character which makes him a likable underdog. There is a fragility to his physique that makes him the perfect young wizard and also makes him believably strong in mind and heart. It is this heart of the character which is the core of this show. It is about how he struggles to help and protect those who cannot protect themselves and it is his battle with the arrogance of Prince Arthur (Bradley James) and his connection with him that helps create the conflict needed for the narrative.

The creators and writers of the show have really made the show develop and succeed through it’s twisting of the myth and although it holds the mythology well in it’s narrative there is also a lot more depth to it created by the conflict with the characters and the secrets of the past that come to light over the seasons. The playfulness of the the first season slowly becomes less prominent as the story continues and as more people turn evil, however it remains within the realm of “family entertainment” for the most part. The youthfulness of the lead actors and the growing up that they experience over the course of the show has made it appealing for both children and adults alike.

The latter seasons although a bit darker are also more interesting as the relationships between the characters develop. The rival of Morgana and Emerys (old version of Merlin, still played by Colin Morgan and is incredibly convincing as an old man, it’s actually a little concerning how well he acts this role, awe-inspiringly good acting) and the love between Arthur and Gwen start to give a new depth to the story.

The battle between good and evil continues and the wisdom to know the difference is something that drives the characters in this show as well as the idea of duty and responsibility which for our day and age is an interesting one to explore. We don’t have the same sense of duty as they did previously however this show deals with the subject in a balanced manner which shows both the ill and the blessing of fulfilling duty and destiny.

I really like this show for many reasons but mainly because of Colin Morgan’s superb acting in every episode. He is mesmerising on screen and brings Merlin to life in the best way possible. His compassion and strength as Merlin is gripping and his journey through the story is riveting.

This show isn’t for everyone, it is fantasy and can be a bit cheesy at points. It requires a bit of suspension of reality and you have to allow yourself to be taken back in time but if you can live with the fantastical nature of the show it is a beautiful show to watch.