Tom Hanks did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Dr. Henry Goose, Hotel Manger, Isaac Sachs, Dermot Hoggins, Timothy Cavendish look-a-like actor, and Zachary in Cloud Atlas.
Cloud Atlas is not a perfect film, and there are questionable choices in it. One being the few actors cast who are decidedly not chameleon. Tom Hanks is one of them and looking at this performance can easily be done by thinking what would Gary Oldman do. Hanks plays six roles and it is really best to look at each of the roles separately and see Hanks's attempts in each role. The first chronologically is that of Dr. Henry Goose who pretends to help an American Lawyer Adam Ewing (Jim Sturgess) recover from a parasitic worm, where in fact Goose is slowly poisoning the man and intends to kill him to rob him of his gold. This is a unique role for Hanks doing an accent as well as playing a villain.
It would seem this sort of role is not for Hanks as he is not very menacing nor as enjoyable as the greedy Goose probably could have been in say the hands of Gary Oldman. Hanks seems a little silly in the role actually, and the makeup never seems to fit him. It does not help that Hanks never seems all that comfortable with the accent either leaving him rather uninteresting to say the least. Honestly there was a great deal of potential for Goose to really be a great turn, but Hanks just really does not have the command of the role that is really required for an excellent villianous turn.
Well we can skip the Hotel Manager as he is basically just Goose again just with less screen time. Next he comes as Isaac Sachs a Nuclear scientist who attempts to help journalist Luisa Rey (Halle Berry). Hanks is far more comfortable in this role brings out his best qualities as just an average role. He is good at showing the decency of his character, and naturally brings about the connection Sacs feels with Rey. It is a very short role though, and he really is only in one scene as Sacs leaving the good qualities of this performance fairly easy to forget.
Next is a double display of lacking as he plays Dermot Hoggins as the
actor playing Timothy Cavendish. Hoggins is quick scene of a deranged
gangster who kills a critic for dissing his book. Again a sort like Gary
Oldman could have knocked this scene out of the park and turned the
rage of Hoggins into a hilarious overstatement. Hanks though lacks the
punch in his performance and just seems silly in the get up as well as
with his heavy accent. The same is true as the actor reenacting Jim Broadbent's story. Another actors could had a lot of fun in the brief scenes, but Hanks plays it oddly straight and does not make much of an impact.
The last segment as Zachary in a post apocalyptic land as a tribesman Zachary plagued by guilt due to not acting when his brother and nephew were killed by roaming cannibals. Now even this segment has problems with the future speak used which almost none of the actors are comfortable with. All filmmakers who decide to do something like this should always remember there are things called Shakespearean actors for a reason, even if you make up a derivative of English actors still need to be comfortable with it, but when the actors speak here they always seem somewhat rehearsed.
Hanks though does have good moments in his silent reactions in these scenes as Zachary, and he has powerful moments showing the painful struggle he is facing due to his loss as well as his feelings of guilt. For the most part this is a fairly effective piece of work by Tom Hanks in these scenes even if he never makes the words entirely natural. He has quite a bit power in his scenes particularly when Zachary see his entire village destroyed, and brings the weight to these scenes as he should. So the final tally goes like this Goose -2, Manager-2, Sachs-2.5, Hoggins-1.5, Cavendish-1.5, Zachary-3.5 leaving him as a:
Broadbent does well in both roles and gets the cruel pompousness of these characters out. As Molyneux he is particularly good and Broadbent shows the brutal nature of the composer who makes Molyneux as the societal injustice he should be. Importantly though Broadbent does show a quieter nature to the man in a few scenes that helps establish the idea that this man does have some brilliance behind his less positive features. He makes this role completely suiting its needs which is to put the lead of this story, ambitious young composer Robert Frobisher, through hell and set the man on the course of dread and despair.
Now the most important role of Jim Broadbent in the film is that of Timothy Cavendish the only story in the film that is a straight out comedy. It details a book publisher who must go into hiding when one of his writers demands payment that he does not have. He is in fact the lead of this story he is still supporting though of the film, as everyone is supporting the film here and not one actor leads the film. Broadbent fills a very important role in the story of Timothy Cavendish as he must bring a lighter touch to the film that alleviates some of the heavier elements of the film expressed in all of the other stories.
Broadbent makes the story of Timothy Cavendish enjoyable one through his various reactions as Cavendish faces various bouts of bad luck. Broadbent is an effective comedic actor in that he is able to express the emotions honestly in each scene well making them amusing at the same time. Broadbent makes the ride of Cavendish an enjoyable one as he goes from running from the gangster to trying to escape from a jail like retirement home. Broadbent has a lot of fun in the role a he makes every comedic scene as entertaining as they should be. Broadbent is charming and likable as Cavendish, and makes The Ghastly Tale of Timothy Cavendish an easy story to watch play out.
Broadbent adds well to the film in a way that Tom Hanks does not. Although he is certianly recognizable as Jim Broadbent in all of his important roles he differentiate them properly, and they work well in the nature of the film rather than seem distracting as it did for Hanks. Broadbent is particularly effective in giving entirely opposing performances as a fiendish composer, and a likable publisher. Frankly Broadbent's performance only helps in showing exactly what is wrong with Hanks's characterizations.
Ben Whishaw did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying
Robert Frobisher in Cloud Atlas.
Ben Whishaw actually plays five roles but they do not really matter in that they are very short and unnoticeable. To his credit though he is not distracting in the moments, and fulfills these roles as he should. They just do not amount to much which is fine though because he plays the meatier role of Robert Frobisher who is the main character of his story. His story being that of a young bi-sexual musician who goes to work with a forgotten but talented composer Vyvyan Ayrs (Jim Broadbent). Whishaw leads which is probably the weightiest story of the film, and the one that depends probably the most on the lead performance.
Whishaw at the beginning of Frobisher's story shows him to be a young man with a great deal of energy who is enthusiastic at the prospect of composing a masterwork with Ayrs's help. Whishaw is quite good in emphasizes the ambitious qualities within Forbisher and makes his urge to create something remarkable something worthwhile. Frobisher's story easily could have been excessively uninteresting, or seem the story of just a selfish man. Whishaw though succeeds incredibly well by being very genuine with the feelings that Forbisher's feels that compels him to such a task.
There are several narrations competing throughout the film each which make varying impacts. Whishaw's honestly adds the most to the film and there is something particularly compelling about his delivery. He infuses a tremendous amount of life to each and poignancy. every moment that Frobisher's the one we here on screen. There are a great deal of lines in the film about the interconnected nature of everyone and everything. Perhaps they don't leave these sort of lines for Tom Hanks for a reason as they really require a great deal of conviction to make them seem more than pretentious babble, Whishaw manages to bring this conviction.
Whishaw adds a power to all of his scene through his turn as Frobisher. He is very effective later on as it seems less and less likely that he will achieve his dreams he falls into despair only holding on to finish his masterpiece. It is a moving performance by Whishaw because he never does overwhelm with the depression of the character. Instead there is something particularly special about his portrayal of this man's suicide because of the final moments of happiness before regulating himself to his fate. They are short subtle reactions by Whishaw but they beautifully show the complexity of the man as well as what Frobisher really has lost by committing suicide. Ben Whishaw gives a very strong performance here and despite only having one role of note actually is one of the most memorable portrayals in the film. The nature of the film that weaves in and out of each story and Whishaw always holds the proper amount of attention, and brings to life the story Robert Frobisher in a powerful fashion.
As Bill Smoke shows signs of his role as Agent Smith in The Matrix, which is a good thing. Weaving is quite good at the evil maniacal stare, as well as the imposing delivery that brings to life the fierce some nature of his character well. Weaving knows how to deliver with a character like this as well as the other similar ones. He oozes menace with an ease and oddly enough a certain grace. He makes looking evil seem easy, and even though Bill Smoke is not given much time he makes him the proper threat from his very first scene. Weaving is perfectly cast in these roles because he knows exactly how to play them and brings out the evil of these characters quickly without effort even seeming required.
It is a real shame though that Weaving's strengths shown with the other villains is rather wasted in the role of Nurse Noakes. Noakes is basically the Nurse Ratched of the retirement home that imprisons Timothy Cavendish. Weaving is not very good here basically doing the stereotypical voice that any man does to imitate a woman when they are not trying at all to believable. Noakes is indeed in the comedic section of the film so really he would not exactly have to be the most believable woman of all time, but Weaving performance is rather embarrassing instead. Frankly someone, like maybe Gary Oldman for example, could have brought out more menace in these scenes well being funny at the same time. Weaving is neither menacing or funny as Noakes.
The last villianous performance by Weaving here is as Old Georgie, the representation of the devil, who haunts Tom Hanks's Zachary. Weaving here seems to be doing his best Tom Waits impression. To be perfectly honest this works out just fine, and Weaving is fine at being this existential evil. Old Georgie is pretty limited but Weaving is just as he should be. Hugo Weaving for the most part works as the go to evil doer for the film. Nurse Noakes weighs down his performance which unfortunate as that part could have easily been the highlight if he had delivered a better performance. This rest of his roles though Weaving fulfills them quite well particularly Bill Smoke.