“Cloud Atlas”, directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer, based on the novel by David Mitchell, shouldn’t work as a movie. It tells six different stories, all completely different, not just in setting, but in tone and content. Yet somehow it works, and its theme of everything being connected helps carry it through almost three hours of war, love, rebellion, and mystery.
Among the stories told in the film is one of a man who rescues a black stowaway while at sea; a young composer who works with an older one; a journalist who unravels a mystery surrounding a nuclear power plant; an elderly publisher’s attempts to escape a nursing home; a clone who starts a rebellion far into the future; and a tribe living in a post-apocalyptic world. The cast includes Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Jim Sturgess, Hugo Weaving, Hugh Grant, Doona Bae, and Susan Sarandon, all of whom play multiple characters across the series of stories.
And as different as these stories are, they really are all connected: the composer reads the journal of the man at sea, the journalist helps the lover of the composer; on top of that, the main character in each tale possesses the same birth mark, one that resembles a shooting star.
Considering that the film cuts back and forth between all these stories, you’d think things would get confusing, but actually they don’t, and the cuts are made with ease. And while on the surface they may appear completely different, at their heart they are all quite similar: all involve some form of rebellion, and some act of love, no matter how big or small.
Naturally, some of the stories are more exciting than others. The 1970s-set thriller featuring Berry as an intrepid journalist and Weaving as a deadly assassin is exciting, while Broadbent’s elderly publisher bit is oddly light-hearted but hilarious. The part that probably brings the film down the most is the post-apocalyptic world, a confusing segment in which Hanks and Berry speak in a virtually incomprehensible dialect and Weaving plays a green devil in a top hat who appears every so often and whispers in Hanks’ ear. It’s a little trippy, and often laughable.
But despite a few inconsistencies, the stories flow together pretty nicely, and the outstanding special effects and make-up helps it all happen. After the movie, don’t leave as soon as the credits start, but wait a couple minutes. The name of each actor is displayed accompanied by pictures of each character they played in the film, and while you’ll probably be able to guess a lot of them while watching the film, there are some that are so far out—going from Caucasian to Asian, man to woman and vice versa—you’ll have a newfound respect for the people who worked on the visuals for this film.
“Cloud Atlas” is an epic that at times is hard to take seriously and at others is easy to get swept away in the action. Despite its flaws, it is a fine film, and you’d be hard pressed to find another like it.
Runtime: 172 minutes. Rated R for violence, language, sexuality/nudity, and some drug use.
Check out showtimes for this movie and more at the following St. Louis-area theaters:
- Wehrenberg Theatres
- AMC Theatres
- Regal Movie Theatres
- Galleria 6
- Chase Park Plaza
- Granite City
- Moolah Theatre
- Hi-Pointe Theatre
- St. Andrews Cinema
- Plaza Frontenac Cinema
- Tivoli Theatre
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