Books & Review | Cole Garner Hill
Updated: Oct 15, 2012 05:11 PM EDT

cloud atlas

“I think it’s as risky as ‘Inception,’" said Tom Hanks in a recent interview with The Chicago Sun-Times. (Photo : Warner Bros.)

The story behind the making of the film adaptation of "Cloud Atlas" is growing almost as large and complicated in scope as the book it's based on. And while the film won't be out until Oct. 26, today's release of three behind the scenes featurettes is certainly a nice gesture to tide us over until then (See video below).

The on location shooting looks stunning. The actors hugely involved in understanding their characters' motives, and engaged in much of the film's action. The featurettes total around 15-minutes of bonus footage altogether and offer an intriguing look at the filming process behind the mammoth production.

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Based on the 2004 novel by British author David Mitchell, "Cloud Atlas" consists of six intertwined stories that take the audience from the remote South Pacific in the nineteenth century to a distant, post-apocalyptic future. Each tale is revealed to be a story that is read (or observed) by the main character in the next. Many of the leading actors in the film portray several different people in different eras, with different hair color, and sometimes appearing as a different race, and even gender. Got that straight?

To call a film with such a sprawling scope just "ambitious" would be a tremendous understatement. Not to mention "Cloud Atlas" has a stellar cast and visionary directors on board. The movie will star Halle Berry, Tom Hanks, Susan Sarandon, Keith David, Jim Sturgess, Bae Doona, Ben Whishaw, Hugo Weaving, and Jim Broadbent. Having built their careers on eye-popping, technology-pushing spectacle the Wachowski siblings ("The Matrix" trilogy) and Tom Tykwer ("Run Lola Run") will direct.

Much of the media has wanted to know how to classify the film, wondering if the team were creating a blockbuster, an arthouse film or something in between. The answer? None of the above.

"One of the things that unites us very profoundly is the idea that something can be crazy and experimental, mind-opening and yet still popular," Tykwer said. "And the [type of] cinema we loved... and made us want to make movies, did [many things like that]. [Those films] had the potential to involve you on many levels... [you would be] be struck by its ideas, and yet be hugely entertained. And those are the films we want to make."

Lana Wachowski said the book's author Mitchell saw the movie and loved it. "You do this amazing thing where you take highbrow ideas and lowbrow, entertaining narrative motifs, and combine it into a one-brow experience," she recalled Mitchell telling her. "We try to make monobrow movies. We don't like commercial, market-driven thing of splitting movies into arthouse and mainstream."

Mitchell's "Cloud Atlas" won the British Book Awards Literary Fiction Award, the Richard & Judy Book of the Year award, and was short-listed for the 2004 Booker Prize, Nebula Award, and Arthur C. Clarke Award.

The film adaptation of Mitchell's novel looks to be garnering mostly positive reviews, with an overall score of 79 percent on Rottentomatoes.com

"'Cloud Atlas' is beautiful, engaging and amazing. It lives with you ... the film is a challenging yet rewarding interpretation of the popular book ... Days after seeing the film, I'm still thinking about it and dying to see it again," writes Slash Film.

"[The movie] is like the entire 'Matrix' trilogy in micro. It starts out absolutely brilliantly, then segues into a pretentious slog," said Film.com in its review.

"At 163 minutes Cloud Atlas carries all the marks of a giant folly, and those unfamiliar with the book will be baffled," wrote The Guardian.

Film School Rejects seems to put it all into perspective: "The picture isn't perfect, but its flaws come not only at the attempt to grandly succeed, but by breaking ground in rarely visited territories."

"Cloud Atlas" opens on October 26th.

Watch the other two behind the scenes featurettes here, and here.  

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