"Cloud Atlas" details the lives of six people spanning six different eras in Earth and beyond. It is 1839 in the South Pacific Islands and Adam Ewing (Jim Sturgess) is on his way to a business agreement in the Chatham Islands. Little does he know that the business is a shady one and one of his partners is out to steal his wealth in anyway possible. In 1936, a bisexual Robert Frobisher (Ben Wishaw) is on his way to becoming a amanuensis to a famous composer, Vyvyan Ars. When the composer threatens to steal Robert's greatest composition, "The Cloud Atlas Extet", he is forced to do things he never imagined to do. In 1973, San Francisco, Luisa Rey (Halle Berry) is a journalist who by chance meets a man who tips her to a conspiracy within his company. What this sets off is a wild goose chase with an assassin named Smoke. In 2012, Timothy Cavendish (Jim Broadbent)is forcibly sent to an abusive nursing home when he gets in trouble with his client, a gangster, who wants his undue share on his book. Cavendish is forced to plan an escape that will free him from his ghastly ordeal. In Neo-Seoul, 2144, Sonmi-544 (Doona Bae) is a clone fast food server. When she witnesses the murder of her master, she is invited to start a revolution that might just change how clones and everyone else are treated by the system. After "The Fall" (in 2321), a primitive tribesman Zachry (Tom Hanks) is forced to help a prescient being, Meronym, when she saves his daughter's life. The favor is to lead Meronym into the temples at the peak of the mountain where he believes the devil lives.
"Cloud Atlas" minus its story is already a good film to begin with. The two of its biggest assets in this regard is its visuals and acting. The visuals in particular stand out as the film progresses through different ages and times in Earth's history. It is a film you will have to see to appreciate its beauty. The acting is also top-notch with no one in particular standing out because everyone did a good job. The film might even surprise you as its cast is rotated to various roles in the mini stories. Tom Hanks for example plays a scientist, a gangster and a post-apocalyptic tribesman. All acted differently and with nuance that will surprise anyone.
The narrative is definitely the most controversial aspect of "Cloud Atlas". Many will hate the messy approach it takes - jumping from one age to another seamlessly. Further maddening some is the apparent lack of significant connections with each age to the next (most connections are just a simple diary or scene in an old movie). Some may say that this was a wasted effort but we beg to differ. The "messy" approach isn't that messy at all. In fact, it artfully and metaphorically transfers to the next age to the next. What's messy is actually clean and a well-thought out process. The miniscule connections between ages only magnify the film's point that even the smallest of things and objects can and will affect the past, present and future. In the end, "Cloud Atlas" is one epic and ambitious film. To understand it in a traditional light will make you pull your hairs out. Stop the wild goose chase of connecting the dots and just go with the film's flow and you might just get what "Cloud Atlas" was made for.
Rating: 4 and a half reels
Why you should watch it:
- great acting and even greater visuals
- the story's significance and message is hard to see but when you do get it, it's just makes the film even better
Why you shouldn't watch it:
- some of the stories feel left out
- the very long running time might surprise some