Movie Review: Cloud Atlas

By Matthew Parkinson

Cloud Atlas is the type of audacious art-house film that almost never gets a blockbuster budget or recognizable actors. Yet, over $100 million has been put into this adaptation of David Mitchell’s award-winning novel of the same name. The film stars A-list actors like Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and Hugo Weaving. Cloud Atlas has three directors: the Wachowski siblings of The Matrix fame and Tom Tykwer, best known internationally for the critically acclaimed Run Lola Run. 

These directors are backed-up by enough acting talent to fill multiple movies. The run-time of 164 minutes coupled with Cloud Atlas’s six distinct narratives makes it feel like six movies in one. Stylistically — even in terms of genre — each story is different, although they are similar in that they all tell stories of redemption.

This is a film that doesn’t make things easy for the audience. The film’s main message about interconnectivity is so apparent that it’s almost impossible to miss, but in order to truly understand and appreciate the film, audiences have to pay close attention. However, it’s completely worth the effort and, once the pieces start falling into place, it makes for one of the most cinematically satisfying experiences you can have.

Telling six stories that span multiple centuries and making them all connect is a difficult feat — keeping them all interesting is even harder. Yet, despite all odds, both of these elements are accomplished. Cloud Atlas moves seamlessly from one story to the next, often leaving the previous one on a cliffhanger, and new life is sparked in the film whenever a transition occurs. Although these sudden transitions don’t always feel necessary, it helps keep things interesting — even a world of magic gets dull when you linger in one place for too long. There isn’t a single boring moment in Cloud Atlas despite its lengthy running time, and when the film’s disparate threads begin to gel together it is absolutely amazing.

If narrative isn’t your cup of tea, you’ll have an endless amount of other elements to enjoy. Every aspect of Cloud Atlas is top-notch — you’ll find everything you’re looking for done at its very best. There is great makeup work, jaw-dropping visuals, gorgeous cinematography, effective editing, strong acting, an emotional journey from beginning to finish and one of the most beautiful scores in recent memory. Cloud Atlas could have had one great element and still have been worth seeing — putting them all together is what makes it special.

Part of the fun of this movie is trying to see where and when the actors turn up in each story. Sometimes they feature prominently in a story, while other times they appear in a cameo, but most of the principal cast ends up playing five or six characters, each time with a unique look and personality. The makeup and effects are spectacular — Berry becomes a white woman for one story, while Weaving becomes a woman in another.

You’ll be able to find whatever it is you’re looking for in Cloud Atlas. This is one of those rare movies that you simply can’t miss.

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