Cloud Atlas Review
Posted by Ernest Lin on 10.26.2012
One of the most anticipated films of the year, the Wachoskis' Cloud Atlas, has arrived in theaters! Is the sci-fi epic as good as it is ambitious or does it fall flat under the weight of multiple time periods and characters? 411's Ernest Lin checks in with his full review!
Directed By: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, and Tom Tykwer
Written By: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, and Tom Tykwer (for the screen), David Mitchell (novel) Runtime: 172 minutes MPAA Rating: Rated R for violence, language, sexuality/nudity and some drug use
Tom Hanks as Dr. Henry Goose / Isaac Sachs / Dermot Hoggins / Zachry Bailey Halle Berry as N'Fera / Jocasta Ayrs / Luisa Rey / Ovid / Meronym Jim Broadbent as Vyvyan Ayrs / Timothy Cavendish / Prescient Hugo Weaving as Haskell Moore / Tadeusz Kesselring / Bill Smoke / Nurse Noakes / Mephi / Old Georgie Jim Sturgess as Adam Ewing / Lloyd Hooks / Hae-Joo Chang / Adam Bailey Doona Bae as Tilda Ewing / Mexican Woman / Sonmi-451 Ben Whishaw as Robert Frobisher / Georgette Noakes James D'Arcy as Rufus Sixsmith / Nurse James / Wing-027 / Sloosha Zhou Xun as Yoona-939 / Rose Bailey Keith David as Kupaka / Joe Napier / An-kor Apis / Prescient David Gyasi as Autua / Lester Rey Susan Sarandon as Madame Horrox / Ursula / Abbess Hugh Grant as Reverend Horrox / Alberto Grimaldi / Seer Rhee / Cannibal
As cliché as it sounds, Cloud Atlas embodies the word “ambitious.” It’s based on the novel of the same name by David Mitchell which contains a wide cast of characters and multiple time periods that are all connected in one way or another. For that reason, some felt Cloud Atlas was “unfilmable” and that any attempt at doing so would result in a complete disaster. Yet with a dream team consisting of the Wachoskis (The Matrix trilogy, Speed Racer) and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer) on writing and directing, Cloud Atlas is one of the most exhilarating films of 2012 and a phenomenal piece of artistic expression.
Cloud Atlas consists of half a dozen stories intertwined with one another with each taking place at radically different periods of time. Three take place in the past and tell of a Caucasian slave sympathizer crossing the Pacific Ocean in the 1850s, a poor homosexual musician striving to compose a masterpiece in the 1930s, and a young African American female journalist in the 1970s trying to uncover a mystery. The other three stories are set in the present and future including an elderly publisher living in our time that is trapped at a nursing home by his brother, a Korean human clone who serves as a waitress slave in future Neo Seoul, and a tribesman surviving in the future following an apocalyptic event. To go any further into these stories would spoil the surprise of figuring out the connections and major plot points. All in all, it ends up being confusing at times, especially considering the film jumps between the different stories.
With no mind-blowing revelation or twist, the film succeeds with simply reinforcing the themes it presents. One that becomes apparent is slavery and the nature of freedom. Is the conquering of any people just or simply part of evolution? For what reasons does one human use to justify oppressing another human being? The different time periods help give different situations and perspectives on this this issue. Another thematic element to Cloud Atlas is the healing of the human soul, the power of love, and how it transcends time and space. A reoccurring quote in the film sums it up best: “Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future." Be prepared for an emotional roller coaster. One moment you will be laughing or on the edge of your seat then next your heart will melt, tears forming. Cloud Atlas’s different plots are not what make it a winner, but the depth and sum of its parts combined.
All this talk of Cloud Atlas’s story and messages may lead you to think the film is filled with lots of exposition with nothing to feast your eyes and ears on. It most definitely is not. See Cloud Atlas on the largest screen you can, IMAX if you’re able to, because it’s an unbelievable journey. The film’s cinematography is astounding and takes you to places most of us will never visit. Outdoor scenes in Neo Seoul and post-apocalyptic Hawaii offer the most breathtaking sights. Also, Cloud Atlas has a moving music score, which the film’s writer/director Tom Tykwer worked on with Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek. Its sweeping full orchestral tracks are packed with feeling that listening to the soundtrack as I write this review takes me back to how I felt while watching Cloud Atlas. Specifically, the quiet, slow main theme is one of the most memorable pieces of film music this year.
Last but not least, I cannot forget the amazing and international cast with too many names to say without sounding like a list. Everyone on the main cast listed above deserves a pat on the back for playing multiple distinct characters and drawing emotional resonance. While a few actors or actresses and the special effects team may win some Oscar nominations, the makeup team surely will. It wasn’t until after the credits that I realized that some characters were played by this actor or actress. Downright phenomenal work was done on Cloud Atlas.
The 411: Cloud Atlas is an inspirational, moving epic. There are some truly poetic scenes and lines of dialogue. It's also a visual feast at times. My mind is still trying to wrap around the whole story, featuring multiple time periods and clocking in at almost 3 hours. But by the end, everything comes together and it's wonderful, especially if you are a hopeless romantic or believer in the human spirit.