Whether you are a fan of the novel, or just as an average moviegoer looking for something different, “Cloud Atlas” offers a complicated plot, yet delivers impressive cinematography and acting.
From the point-of-view of a fan there is the tinge of uneasiness that comes from the bond between reader and beloved novel, that such a unique story, full of complex themes and spanning so many different time periods, may have worked well on the page but might not transfer well to the screen. As a moviegoer ignorant of the novel, the idea of a film that skips around different time periods each containing different yet inevitably connected characters is a little confusing and could leave you unsure of what the movie is really about. While both of these concerns are completely warranted, “Cloud Atlas” still delivers a rewarding experience.
“Cloud Atlas” is broken up into six (at first) separate stories taking place in different time periods, spanning from the late 1800’s to the distant future after the fall of civilization. Each of the six stories has different genres and themes, ranging from historical fiction dealing with greed and unlikely friendships to a grim technological future in which an entire race of human being is genetically engineered to serve and cater to “pure blood” consumers. Each story is connected by the ideas that the actions of any individual in the past can and will affect someone in the future and love is everlasting and can even transcend death.
The film was written and directed by Tom Tykwer and Andy and Lana Wachowski. Each of them directed a different part of the film that easily could have led to a broken-feeling film with clashing styles, but these three were able to work together so well that it felt as if the film had just one director. However, since the film covered so many different genres, some of them, particularly the sci-fi section, felt a little flat and fell into certain tropes of the given genre.
This is a minor complaint as these sections are still enjoyable due to the well-played relationships between the characters, which is the true goal of the film. This goal is reached easily due to the star-studded cast including Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving and Hugh Grant among others. Each actor plays a different role in each of the stories, changing between protagonist, antagonist or side-character. This stellar cast performs extremely well, whether they are the star of a particular tale or just a minor role in it.
“Cloud Atlas” also triumphs in its cinematography, artfully presenting each new setting giving each story added depth. Every time period, whether past, present or future is well fleshed out and represents its genre perfectly. There is true attention to detail in this film, as each story you enter feels like it has existed for a long time. The film also blends together well through smooth transitions between the different tales, making the film a comfortable experience for the audience.
The true strength of “Cloud Atlas” is its ability to rapidly switch between so many different time periods and genres, while simultaneously keeping certain themes present throughout them and making these characters feel somehow connected. Social issues and love are the most prominent themes in each story, revolving around the two souls who are continuously meeting one another in different ways throughout time. While this is confusing at first, you will quickly start to see who they are in each period, making the film feel coherent, even if sometimes it feels as though they are breaking away from a story too soon or sticking with another for too long.
Overall, “Cloud Atlas” is a very ambitious film that takes on a near unadaptable piece of literature and makes it work on the big screen. It will confuse you at times and bore you at others, but for the most part it is an incredibly exciting and interesting film. It might not be for everybody, as it is such an unusual experience, but the payoff of seeing the connection between so many characters and the expert blending of so many genres and themes all connected by the idea of love transcending death is well worth the risk.
Cory Willey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.