“Cloud Atlas” Movie Review


     I needed a few days after seeing “Cloud Atlas” to really let it sink in and help me determine what it was I had just witnessed.  The film is either one of the greatest ever made or just a mash up of visually appealing images.  It will be difficult for anyone to discern which because of the film’s sheer complexity and ambition.  “Cloud Atlas” is based on the David Mitchell novel and adapted for the screen by the Wachowskis (The Matrix Trilogy) and Tom Tykwer (“Run Lola Run”).  It had been said though the novel was brimming with interesting questions about the reincarnation of life, it would be impossible to put on film because of the structure of the story.  Make that six stories rather, as “Cloud Atlas” attempts to string together the lives of people connected by various themes and spanning several centuries.  This filmmakers practically invent a narrative style to pull off the intercutting relationships between the film’s many characters and does so in a way I have never seen before.  “Cloud Atlas” is likely to become the “Citizen Kane” of this generation in that audiences of today will not connect with it initially, but it will come to be appreciated as decades pass.

     “Cloud Atlas” features several notable actors such as Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant, and Hugo Weaving just to name a few.  Each of them has as many as six roles in the film, playing an integral part in each of the six stories presented.  At a minimum, you have to give strong Oscar consideration to the makeup team for their work in bringing these very different characters to life using the same actor in a different environment.  Casting a film like this certainly required actors who are capable of a tremendous amount of range, but also being equipped with the ability to exhibit similar traits from role to role.  The idea here is each of us are born in a certain time, say 1849 when the first story is told, and after death we are born again in a different life and a different time.  Yet, there always seems to be that strange sense of deja’ vu where we know we’ve seen or heard something before.  A song maybe or the recognition of a person you can’t really place, but a feeling of familiarity resonates deep within your core.  It is those ideas “Cloud Atlas” explores and this makes for a true workout of the brain.  The film is more of a thinking man’s experience than pure entertainment and I’m sad to say this will likely keep people from taking the time to view something that will have a lasting effect you are not likely to forget.

     I couldn’t possibly explain this film on paper and I’m not going to try.  Putting things in the most simplest of forms, the film includes stories about an ocean voyage on a ship in 1849 where the son in law of a slave trader befriends a stow away slave and has a change of heart in his perceptions.  There is a story of an older composer who hires a young aspiring musician to help him write a song realized from his dreams.  A publisher is deemed to be unable to care for himself and is forced to stay in a nursing home where all he can think about is plotting his escape.  A reporter is caught in the middle of a murder plot at a nuclear power plant and is on the run from a ruthless hit man.  In the distant future, we are taken to “New Seoul” where human clones serve the needs of the population, but one of them begins to display human characteristics and threatens a revolution.  Even further into the future, a tribe of post-apocalyptic survivors meet human like aliens from another planet who themselves are in search of answers.

     In a brisk 2 hours and 43 minutes, “Cloud Atlas” covers more ground then perhaps any film has in history.  I think each person will probably take something different away from viewing “Cloud Atlas” and this will depend on your own life experience.  Because younger people make up the majority of the movie going public, I believe as the film ages and our current group of twenty somethings get older there will be an appreciation for “Cloud Atlas” down the road.  I would suggest going to the theater with an open mind and take everything in.  I believe the filmmakers have installed meaning in every frame of this film and no doubt it will require repeated viewings in order to process all that is here.  After listening to the film’s exceptional musical score and thinking about the various messages found within, I’ve determined “Cloud Atlas” is a great film and will likely be seen as a classic many years down the road.  Whether the characters are connected by a mysterious birthmark or the remembrance of a familiar tune, these stories really get you thinking about where we came from and where we are going.  In truth, isn’t it that why we go to the movies?  Tykwer and the Wachowskis have created something that succeeds on every level.  From script and adaptation, editing skill, musical score, raw emotion, and taut direction, “Cloud Atlas” requires the viewer to remain focused throughout, but rewards you with an experience you will never forget. GRADE: A