“Cloud Atlas” will be overlooked by most and understood by some. Based upon David Mitchell’s novel of the same name, “Cloud Atlas” tells the stories of six interconnected people ranging across generational gaps in time. “Cloud Atlas” comes with a potentially heavy handed price tag. It’s story deals with concepts such as evolution, revolution, bio-engineering, racism, reincarnation, quantum mechanics, and even the cosmic order of the universe. For most this would seem like a pretentious undertaking; but for the creators of the Matrix trilogy and the director of “Run Lola Run”, this film was destined for them to make it.
The majority of people will see “Cloud Atlas” as a headache in interconnecting a bloated and overlong tale of different protagonists and contrasting genre tropes. Others will see it as an astounding achievement that builds to an unparalleled climactic crescendo. Either way, everyone will be leaving the theater shaking their heads in bewilderment. All that being said, this review will acknowledge the views of the first category; but it rests squarely in the arms of the second.
“Cloud Atlas” is an ambitious film to say the least. It’s stories range from the early nineteenth century to present day, and then all the way into the distant future. Its episodic stories are linked together by common themes and at times, even the same actors portraying different characters. It is the exploration of individual action and how those actions impact the world over generations to come. Each story follows different characters and these tales are either read or observed by the characters following after it.
The same soul permeates throughout all of them. Identified by a celestial birthmark, this character represents the drive of human nature. It is our nature to want to help others. To seek out and expose the truth where no one else wants to see it. Our actions transcend our own lives and ripple throughout the ages. One act of kindness can, in turn, inspire a revolution.
If you haven’t read the novel, then “Cloud Atlas” will garner a need to have multiple viewings in order to catch every little detail. This film is a heavy weight to bear upon anyone’s shoulders. Mercifully “Cloud Atlas” compensates for its complicated narrative structure with provocative ideas and entertaining set-piece moments. It is an epic, an epic that mixes genres and big ideas.
“Cloud Atlas” is a hallmark of its time. It is a work in editing mastery with triumphs in costume design, set creation, visual effects, location scouting, and make-up prosthetics. Half the fun of watching “Cloud Atlas” comes from trying to pick out its mass of talented actors from their different character guises. Some of which are more difficult than others to discern.
At its heart, “Cloud Atlas” is very simple. It’s a story with overarching ideas such as love and redemption. It preaches to its audience for us to never to turn our backs on the truth of things. If we see wrong, we need to stand up against it; no matter the cost. The Wachowskis and Tykwer have taken upon themselves a huge risk in making this film. “Cloud Atlas” isn’t afraid to polarize its audience and divide its critics. Its constant narrative juggling will prove too much for most; but if you can stick with it, then in the end “Cloud Atlas” can prove to be a deep resounding epic that will blow your mind.