CLOUD ATLAS – The Review
THE MATRIX trilogy may be their most recognizable work, but I would contend that CLOUD ATLAS is Andy and Lana Wachowski‘s most profound, accomplished film to date. Co-directed with Tom Tykwer (RUN LOLA RUN) and based upon David Mitchell‘s award-winning novel of the same name, this science-fiction film addresses how individual lives can affect others’ lives in the past, present and future. The film contains multiples stories spanning many eras in human history, from centuries ago to centuries into the future, where the setting is a post-apocalyptic society.
CLOUD ATLAS features a line-up of talented stars rarely seen in one film. Leading the cast are Tom Hanks (CASTAWAY) and Halle Berry (MONSTER’S BALL), whose roles form the primary storyline throughout time, but are not the sole focal point of the film. Hugh Grant (ABOUT A BOY) delivers performances far outside his normal wheelhouse, delivering some truly unlikeable characters in addition to the enjoyably villainous characters delivered by Hugo Weaving (CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER). Weaving, who you may remember as the relentless Agent Smith from THE MATRIX, is much more accustomed to these roles, but seeing Hugh Grant take on this new type of role is refreshing, especially given how well he adapts.
The cast also features veterans performing alongside relatively new faces. Jim Broadbent (THE IRON LADY) is splendid and Susan Sarandon (THE LOVELY BONES), while not prevalent in the film, still adds some seasoned texture to the overall film. Newer talent includes Jim Sturgess (ACROSS THE UNIVERSE) and Doona Bae (THE HOST) amongst others, most of whom provide varied performances for multiple characters in different stories set in different stages of time. Not only is this an impressive undertaking, its also impressively effective, if not dauntingly complex.
CLOUD ATLAS is immeasurably satisfying and uplifting, although few are likely to leave the theater having fully understood the massive scope of this enigmatic cinematic puzzle. David Mitchell’s novel followed six story lines through time, but the film takes it further, following several more story lines, attempting to connect many more lives throughout time than the book. The structure of the film jumps forward and backward in time, as does the tone and the genre, making this a truly unique and original work of daring filmmaking.
CLOUD ATLAS can be an intimidating film to take on, but only on the surface. Once engaged, the film flows surprisingly well, leaping in time from one life to another, setting the viewer up to discover one connection after the other. The whole of the film is tied together by a number of things, one being the actors playing multiple roles. I specifically refuse to point out who plays the individual roles, as part of the experience of watching this film is making those discoveries and connections on your own. The other significant element that serves as the most intoxicating adhesive is the original score from Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek and especially Tom Tykwer for his Cloud Atlas title piece of classically-inspired music.
For a film that cost an estimated $100 million to make, with such an enormous star-studded cast and as much high-quality CGI special effects work as CLOUD ATLAS, the fact that this is independently produced should compel even more interest. The Wachowski’s and Tykwer have created a philosophical playground on screen. The viewer’s eyes and ears will relish the feast that is CLOUD ATLAS and what the viewer witnesses is likely to stay with them indefinitely, resonating with an endless amount of food for thought as connections continually get made beyond the initial viewing.
For me, the most compelling story line takes place in the distant future, set in the post-apocalyptic society with a hint of BLADE RUNNER meets THE MATRIX, but the most engaging performances come from Tom Hanks, Jim Broadbent and Halle Berry, which should help refuel the fire in her recently faltering career. As much as I am drawn to go on for a few thousand more words, describing every last detail of the film, attempting to convey all the various themes and ideas, I would not be doing justice to CLOUD ATLAS, as much an enlightening event as it is an enjoyable film.
Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
CLOUD ATLAS opens in theaters nationwide on Friday, October 26th, 2012.