It is hard to know where to begin when discussing the brain scrambling film that is “Cloud Atlas.” There is no doubt that the film is extremely ambitious in its undertaking of the David Mitchell novel, but where it succeeds in some aspects it fails in others. The overall themes of the film are relatively clear throughout, yet the connections between characters and the different time periods gets a bit lost in the constant jump from one era to another.
The movie is rather unique in its storyline. It follows the actions of individual lives and the impact they have on one another in the past, present and future. There are six eras or storylines shown throughout the film. No storyline is shown straight through. The eras continuously jump from one to the next and then back again.
There are many big names in the film. Many of the actors starring in the film include Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Sturgess, Hugo Weaving, Susan Sarandon, Keith David, Jim Broadbent, Ben Whishaw, James D’Arcy, Doona Bae, Xun Zhou, David Gyasi and Hugh Grant. The acting on a whole is extremely hard to give praise to or say anything negative about. Each actor plays so many characters that in some storylines they acted better than in others. However, the real shining in the acting department comes from Jim Sturgess and Doona Bae in the 2144 storyline. Both delivered gripping performances as their respective characters in this storyline.
The screenplay by Tom Tykwer and The Wachowskis (“The Matrix” Trilogy) is an accomplishment in the shear amount of plot and storylines that are intertwined throughout the film. However, there are aspects of the script that are left to be desired. Some storylines are given far more attention than others, leaving the viewer to wonder if certain storylines were supposed to have more meaning. It is also unclear by the end of the film how the storylines are actually all connected to one another. One gets the overall feel of the importance of human connections and how they influence the future, but some storylines do not seem to connect too much to other ones, whereas in others, there is a direct correlation between them.
The special effects in the film, especially in the 2144 storyline, are spectacular. In the action sequences of the film, the pace increases exponentially compared to the more subtle scenes, adding an appropriate balance. The one aspect that seemed very off was the 2012 storyline in which there is a large amount of humor. One can assume that this storyline was included to add a touch of lightheartedness to the plot, but at times it verged on the point of being almost campy in its attempted humor. There are a few instances that are funny, but they seemed to stand out in an odd way, rather than fitting in with the overall tone of the film.
Overall, some will absolutely love the film in its grand themes and ambitiousness, whereas some will completely hate it for the exact same reasons. This may be a film that should be watched more than once to get the complete understanding of the film’s complexity and a read of the novel may be in order.