How many new movies are truly epic these days? The kind of films that literally span the world: generations, time, distance, people?
Saturday night’s packed Cloud Atlas premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival proved the nail-bitingly anticipated film — directed by Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) and Lana and Andy Wachowski (The Matrix) and based on David Mitchell’s novel — to be just that: utterly, wonderfully epic. After the final credits rolled, following a dense, trippy, funny, fierce visual ride through 500 years, the crowd not only clapped and cheered, they stood up one by one and gave a 10-minute standing ovation to the movie’s cast and crew, facing them head on. It was the kind of moment that felt, in the scheme of a festival, epic.
Sci-fi and realistic, simple and sprawling, clocking in at close to three hours, the movie follows multiple story lines and characters played by a thick pack of actors, including Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, and many more. Almost every actor in the film plays three to six different characters within an almost mind-exploding weave of locales, from the Pacific Islands in 1849 to San Francisco in 1973, 2012 London, apocalyptic Korea in 2144, and a primal, futuristic society in a place called Big Isle years beyond that. Berry, who looks forever young, takes on six different roles, from a saucy, fluffy-haired journalist in the ’70s to an almost unrecognizable light-eyed British wife and an outsider with electrode-looking attachments snaking through her face, with the help of excellent makeup.
The premiere itself felt like one big emotional party, given the more than a dozen cast members in attendance. Lana Wachowski, previously Larry, was giddy and teary on stage, introducing the movie with her brother and Tykwer. She looked straight out of Run Lola Run, with pink and red dread locks, wearing a black dress and tights. Berry and Sarandon both went masculine-feminine in fitted pants suits (Berry’s patterned purple, and Sarandon’s blue). Other celebrities even made sure to snag prime seats to the premiere, including Bryan Cranston, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (fresh off his Toronto Looper premiere on Thursday), and Julie Benz.
“We’ve never really introduced this film before. I thought to go with ‘BEHOLD,'” joked Andy Wachowski to the crowd. Added his sister, who said it took years to get funding for what she called an “experimental” film, “The movie really speaks to human courage. … The reason we’re here is because of the courage and talent of this unbelievable cast.”
The crowd especially loved Hanks and Broadbent, who would squint his face into a scowl as composer Vivian Ayrs in pre World War II England, then get the most laughs as spunky, sly present day Timothy Cavendish, grinning like a loopy chipmunk, with his villainous brother played by Grant, whose prosthetic jowls resembled a fleshy blowfish. Another Grant part, as the kind of dirt, blood, and war-paint covered warrior you don’t want to meet in a dark forest, will shock some people. Silent, but deadly.
Hanks threw his acting weight around with the most relish fans have seen in a while. Sweaty and red-nosed as a greedy doctor in the 1800s, buff and covered with miniature face markings as hallucination-prone Zachry in the future, and best as totally ballsy, violent, head-shaved Brit writer Dermot Hoggins. The audience cracked up when normally demure Hanks appeared as Hoggins on-screen. Hello Oscar nomination?
When fans finally returned their love of the movie with that long standing ovation, the actors and directors became visibly overwhelmed. Sarandon grabbed Andy Wachowski in an enormous hug. James D’Arcy started to tear up, and Doona Bae — the Korean actress whose big, black eyes and striking heart-shaped face encompass one of the movie’s most memorable characters, a revolutionary-in-the-making in futuristic Korea (very Matrix-y) — glided out of the theater with a trail of admirers behind her.
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