Ambitious. Complex. Baffling. Unique.
These are just some of the words I would use to describe Cloud Atlas, an adaptation of the 2004 novel by David Mitchell that featured six separate "nested" stories-within-stories, spread across a time period that began in the mid-nineteenth century and ended in a far-flung future. Reworking the structure of the novel for the film, its three directors - Andy and Lana Wachowski, along with Tom Tykwer - retain the six individual vignettes, but instead flit back-and-forth between the various narrative strands to create a beguiling, thought-provoking and sometimes enigmatic tapestry of stories, that strives to capture some kind of essential truth about the human condition.
That might sound like a pretentious way to describe the film, but in many ways this is a film that defies conventional description. Its six stories couldn't be more different, taking in different genres (historical; romance; comedy; sci-fi; thriller; fantasy) different tones (stretching from deadly serious to pastiche) and completely different characters. And while they do connect in certain subtle ways - and are all set in the same "world", broadly speaking - they remain largely separate, never being brought together as one contiguous narrative (as you might expect from the resolution of a more conventional movie).
However, certain aspects of the film do prevent it from merely feeling like six different stories, randomly smooshed together. The first is the common cast: an enviable list of big-name actors (Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Susan Sarandon, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Ben Whishaw, and more) is put to good use by casting each one in a different role in each of the six stories (with a couple of exceptions). For example, while Tom Hanks may be one of the central players in the far-future segment, he makes much briefer appearances as totally different people during the sections set in the present day or 2144 (in which some of the bit-part players from the far-future section will in turn have more prominent roles). While this may seem gimmicky at first, it actually ends up being quite important to some of the deeper ideas explored by the film.
It's these deeper ideas that provide the second unifying factor. Because despite the six stories dealing with totally different plot points and groups of characters, certain ideas do keep cropping up throughout each of them. The concept of common human experiences and relationships being repeated over the centuries is an important one. So is the exploration of the relationship between reality and fiction, and the way in which "real" experiences can be recycled as fictional ones without losing any of their power (and in some cases, gaining a lot more). And along with the representation of different belief systems, the film also raises the (possible red herring) of reincarnation, and the idea that human souls can be eternal, even though our mortal bodies are subject to the inevitable ravages of time.
Luckily, these high-minded and philosophical ideals are grounded by performances that really bring them to life in an accessible and relatable way, and a script that manages to retain a certain amount of clarity without sacrificing depth - especially given that it's forced to keep things fairly simple and easy-to-follow as the film bounces around between the different stories that are simultaneously unfolding in different eras. As you get towards the end of the movie's demanding runtime (close to three hours), there's a certain amount of satisfaction in gradually realising how all these stories are connected, and how the messages and experiences that are depicted in one reinforce something you've seen happening in another.
While I would definitely recommend this movie, it's with the caveat that it probably won't click with you immediately (if it does at all). At first, you'll likely be somewhat confused and disoriented by the way the different story strands are introduced so separately and differently, and the way familiar faces keep cropping up in such different contexts. But if you give it a chance, and let the film's grand puzzle gradually unfold in front of you, you'll be rewarded by a multi-faceted story, featuring some impressive performances, that delivers an emotional and intellectual cocktail that's quite different to anything else I've seen.
Is it a perfect film? No. Does it always achieve the levels of profundity that it grasps for? No. But at least it's trying - and in a world in which cinema is increasingly dominated by brain-dead action movies, repetitive rom-coms and unimaginative shouty comedies, I have give Cloud Atlas a hell of a lot of credit for that.
A brilliant film.
First the technical achievements. The make-up's fantastic, so detailed. Actors change gender and deep scars are etched onto their faces seemingly. The visual effects are without doubt the biggest and best thing in the film. So complete and elaborate, the effects give the film a sheer scale that seems impossible to achieve anywhere else, but yet here, it's done successfully. Cinematography is vast and wide, with beautiful scenery emerging out of computer-rendered images and real-world landscapes.
The acting is also brilliant. Everyone gives a fine and in-depth performance. All except one actor - Jim Broadbent. His performance seems out-of-place in the film, far too comic and unrealistic.
This is the reason why i have given the film 4 stars. The Jim Broadbent section of the film. Perhaps his performance isn't out-of-place but the whole section is. Too comic and unreal for the tone and feel of the film.
But still, a brilliant film nonetheless. I would definitely recommend buying it.
We will publish your review of Cloud Atlas [DVD + UV Copy] on DVD within a few days as long as it meets our guidelines.
None of your personal details will be passed on to any other third party.
Please note this is a region 2 DVD and will require a region 2 (Europe) or region Free DVD Player in order to play. From acclaimed filmmakers Lana and Andy Wachowski, creators of The Matrix Trilogy, and Tom Tykwer, director of Run Lola Run, the powerful and inspiring sci-fi epic Cloud Atlas explores how the actions and consequences of individual lives impact one another throughout the past, the present and the future. Action, mystery and romance weave dramatically through the story as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and a single act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution in the distant future. Actors Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, Keith David, James D'Arcy, Xun Zhou, David Gyasi, Susan Sarandon & Hugh Grant Director Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski & Lana Wachowski Year 2012 Screen 2.40:1 Languages English - Dolby Digital (5.1) Additional Languages English Audio Description Subtitles English for the hearing impaired ; English Closed Captions Yes Duration 2 hours and 45 minutes (approx)
The Wachowski siblings and Tom Tykwer write and direct this drama, adapted from the novel by David Mitchell, about how every being is interconnected over the course of many eras. Set in past, present and future worlds, the film follows six intertwined storylines. In 1849, during the California Gold Rush, lawyer Adam Ewing (Jim Sturgess), who is suffering from an ailment, meets Dr. Henry Goose (Tom Hanks) and unwillingly helps to hide slave Autua (David Gyasi). In 1936, impoverished musician Robert Frobisher (Ben Whishaw) finds employment with a composer and in time writes a magnificent piece of his own. In 1975, nuclear physicist Rufus Sixsmith (James D'Arcy) helps journalist Luisa Rey (Halle Berry) expose the truth about a new power plant. In 2012, elderly publisher Timothy Cavendish (Jim Broadbent) finds himself stuck in a nursing home and tries to escape. In a totalitarian world in the 22nd century, clone Sonmi-451 (Bae Doona) is due to be eliminated but decides to fight back and stand up for her own kind. Finally, in a post-apocalyptic Earth, tribe member Zachry (Hanks) helps Meronym (Berry), a woman from a technologically-advanced society, on her journey into the mountains in an attempt to find Cloud Atlas, a station that will allow her to communicate with the people who have left the planet to live in space. The cast, which also includes Susan Sarandon, Hugo Weaving and Hugh Grant, appear throughout a number of the various segments.