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One day religions may be built around CLOUD ATLAS. But until that day, Capone suggests you simply enjoy this beautiful, exciting, mind-bending film!!!

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.

Last year, when I reviewed Terrence Malick's THE TREE OF LIFE, I started out by saying that you would hear a great number of interpretations from critics of what the symbolism in the film meant, what the deeper meaning of the subtext was all about, etc. And I concluded my opening remarks by saying that all of this analysis was both totally wrong and totally right.

Although the new movie CLOUD ATLAS bares little resemblance to Malick's family drama combined with a history of life on earth, it shares the wonderful notion that films are not meant just to be something you experience for the two hours (or damn near three, in this case) you're in a dark theater. The best films are the ones you take home with you in your head and your heart, the ones that reveal themselves to you hours or even days after you see them, the ones you feel absolutely compelled to see again because the one viewing simply isn't enough (for whatever reason).

As co-written and -directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski (THE MATRIX trilogy, SPEED RACER) and Tom Tykwer (RUN LOLA RUN, PERFUME), based on the dense book by David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas has already been picked apart for deeper meaning and hidden agendas. But the truth is, most of the film's messages and themes are worn at surface level and—for better or worse—there isn't much much digging to be done. This didn't bother me at all, since there's enough to keep track of here in terms of plot and sheer volume of characters without then also getting lost in metaphors. But the messages worn on the sleeve of CLOUD ATLAS are plenty ambitious and worthy to keep things interesting and impressive. And as much as these filmmakers plumb the depths of faith and philosophy and expression and the soul, they never forget to keep the proceedings flowing, moving and, above all, entertaining. This one is the whole enchilada, folks.

Let's cover a few basics here that you're probably already aware of, but you'll probably do a little bit better having some idea of what you're in for. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I say go into a movie with as little advanced knowledge as possible, but I'm not sure that's necessarily true here. Still, here's a little primer. There are a half-dozen stories being told here, all set in various points in history, including two set in the future—one in the far future, after the fall (about 300 years from now, when people speak a broken-down form of English with a few new words you just have to figure out as you go; it's fun, trust me).

Within these stories are characters played by actors, some of whom appear as different characters in each of the six stories; others appears in most or a few of the stories. For examples, Tom Hanks plays everything from a devious ship's doctor on an old schooner circa 1849 to a character named Zachry in the far future, a man torn between helping a woman (Halle Berry) who may hold the key to ancient technology and killing her.

The one thing you can't get lost in is how good or bad or appropriate the makeup in CLOUD ATLAS is. Sometimes the old-age makeup on someone looks flawless, sometimes ridiculous, sometimes it's not the race, sex or either of the actor, and who the hell cares? There's no stereotyping or insulting going on here. This film has expanded on the book's loose idea that souls continue on from era to era, person to person, and someone who is a white man in the 1800s may be an Asian woman several hundred years later. The film doesn't make direct apples-to-apples references that carry from timeline to timeline (with the exception of certain music cues), but there are connective trails nonetheless.

While Hanks and Berry are both quite good, I found myself more taken by the various performances by the likes of Hugh Grant, who goes nearly unrecognizable in all of his roles; Hugo Weaving playing villain in nearly all of his performances—his Nurse Noakes is something to behold; and Ben Whishaw (soon to be seen as James Bond's new "Q" in SKYFALL), whose plays the composer of the main music piece that fuels much of the film (written by Tykwer), Robert Frobisher, opposite Jim Broadbent's nasty Vyvyan Ayrs, who steals credit for the piece. You see how this works?

The film also features find work from the likes of Jim Sturgess, James D'Arcy, Keith David and South Korean actress Doona Bae (THE HOST), the star of one of my favorite segments, set in a futuristic New Seoul, in which a service clone becomes the basis for a cultural revolution based on individual freedom. Does all of this character jumping get confusing? Not really. If anything, having such a small group of usually recognizable actors playing multiple roles helps us keep track of characters as we jump from story to story. For example, I remember each of the six characters Hanks plays here; but if six different actors played those parts, I likely would have gotten confused.

What you actually get with CLOUD ATLAS is six different movies, each with its own unique look and context, that are cut together in a way to form connections that may or may not only be in your head. I fell in love with seeing if the puzzle pieces fit (they don't always), but the juxtaposition of scenes is hardly random. I also was thoroughly entranced with the look of the film; cinematographers Frank Griebe and John Toll did a wonderful job making each timespan look unique and beautiful; if for no other reason, see CLOUD ATLAS to be mesmerized by the camerawork.

Sweeping ambition does not a great movie make. Some of the sweeping statements made in CLOUD ATLAS are downright silly, but I love that these filmmakers are even bothering to try and make them. And the film isn't all far-reaching in its intentions; there's a great deal of humor, action, and plain-spoken cinematic entertainment happening. For all the new ground this film breaks, it also paves a shiny new surface over much-treaded paths. And there's not a damn thing wrong with that.

What made me fall in love with CLOUD ATLAS was that, with just a few important adjustments to the way we are used to having movies unfold (in terms of casting, structure, production design), the Wachowskis and Tykwer have made a kind of film the likes of which you've never seen before. Potential is unlocked, possibilities are opened, and minds will be blown.

It's been more than a month since I saw CLOUD ATLAS for the first time, and there hasn't been a day that some aspect of its vast, expansive vision hasn't crossed my mind. I don't know about you, but those are the kind of experiences and recollections that I live for as a person who sees as many movies a year as my eyeballs can handle. The worst moments in CLOUD ATLAS are still better than 90 percent of the films I've seen this year. And please don't get caught up in box office figures this weekend; even if this movie falls short, that doesn't make it any less a masterpiece or give you any less of a reason you need to see it.

-- Steve Prokopy
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Readers Talkback
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  • Oct. 26, 2012, 1:22 a.m. CST


    by IndianaPeach


  • Oct. 26, 2012, 1:27 a.m. CST

    fine, im sold.

    by soup74

    love it or hate it, it sounds like an experience.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 2:06 a.m. CST

    Won't watch the trailer for it!

    by James

    It's the only way to watch movies!! If you know going into it, you're gonna watch it anyway, why spoil it for yourself. (Won't read this review either. Read the 1st paragraph and it confirmed what I already knew and wanted to know) Can't wait for this sucker!

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 3:03 a.m. CST

    by Cobra--Kai

    *I'll grant that the film has many layers. All of them are terrible. * *insipid, TV-esque in its limited visual imagination, and dramatically incoherent* *Cloud Atlas, surely the most incoherent waste of time and money on screen this year. * Capone, you say the worst moments are still better than 90% of other films so how do you explain the slating this film is getting from the majority of the press?

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 3:10 a.m. CST

    Cant Wait to see this movie

    by bauerpowerhour24

    This movie is going to be one a Visual Dream i cant wait to see it. Dan Kirkman Bellingham Wa

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 4:19 a.m. CST

    Hey Cobra

    by Glenn

    With that attitude, why do you bother going to ANY movies then? Just read the reviews in your little dojo there and leave it at that. That way you don't have to bother with formulating your own opinion. See? I just made your life easier.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 5 a.m. CST

    LOL. Cobra just got a kick in the face!

    by IAmTommyWiseau

    About fucking time too.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 7:44 a.m. CST

    by Cobra--Kai

    I'd give you a kick in the balls wiseau... if you had any. Keep praying to the cloud atlas religion, maybe one day you'll be reincarnated as someone who's less of a twat.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 7:47 a.m. CST

    I'm a third of the way through the book and...

    by Def Ref

    ...wondering what the big deal is? I'm at the part where the publisher discovers the truth of his "hotel" (the 4th story) and other than passing references to the previous (and upcoming) stories - most of which I only recognized as important from watching the movie trailers - I'm not even seeing a general theme, much less any deep connections. So far it just seems like a stunt in writing in different voices and styles. I've seen people oohing and ahhing over the book and/or the movie, but it seems like it just happened to touch their individual happy spots.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 8:02 a.m. CST

    I'm too old for symbolism....just entertain my ass.

    by Smerdyakov

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 8:36 a.m. CST


    by ScriptCunt

    Every glowing review posted at this skid-mark of a web site makes me less interested in seeing this. Unabashed frothing for a decent but terribly flawed movie reeks of an agenda to push this thing on the undecided. Let's just say that the MAD PROPS track record of AICN doesn't inspire much confidence.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 8:55 a.m. CST

    defref, I finished the book last week

    by Simpsonian

    keep going, some stories are much better than others. It seems the movie makes much more of the "connectiveness" than the book--the book even self-mocks it at one point. At the very least there are some good stories there and the movie looks to have some fantastic visuals.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 9:17 a.m. CST

    *One day religions may be built around CLOUD ATLAS*

    by adeceasedfan

    You mean like The Book of Mormon, Dianetics or more likely The Celestine Prophecy pushing New Age agenda in the guise of storytelling. No thanks.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 9:22 a.m. CST

    And Andy and Lana will be it's Christ and Madona.

    by Smerdyakov

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 9:41 a.m. CST

    Sounds exhausting

    by Blanket-Man

    I prefer my movies just about dead smack in the middle of the brain-dead action flick and the artsy nothing-happens-but-isn't-this-DEEP motion picture. This sounds way too close to the latter end of my scale.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 9:59 a.m. CST

    Claudia Puig and others...

    by Ninja Nerd

    ...are struggling to 'get' this movie. Don't know if it's taste, intellect, ADHD, or what but this is perhaps the best example of a "you either love it or hate it" movie in a while. USA Today -2.5 stars Ebert - 4 stars I expect that'll be the pattern all weekend.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 10:56 a.m. CST

    I want to forgive people who have tremendously disapointed me.

    by Smerdyakov

    But I can't. Matrix 3, motherfuckers.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 4:26 p.m. CST

    *One day religions may be built around CLOUD ATLAS*

    by Mistahtibbs

    Reincarnation and's been done. *sigh Still looking forward to watching this movie. mt

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 6:08 p.m. CST

    Jim Sturgess's make up was Guy Pearce Prometheus bad.

    by SunTzu77

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 7:26 p.m. CST

    This film is Judaism

    by David Duchovny

    or more accurately Jewish mysticism--Kabbalah. Our tribe taught reincarnation long before the Buddhists, and evolution long before Darwin. Cool religion. Bad fucking movie--no matter what it's based on. Takes the kabbalistic things in The Matrix and expands on them--big mistake. It's overblown by at least an hour, badly paced, and Tom Hanks will get his first Razzie award.

  • Loved the old people's home bit though.

  • Oct. 27, 2012, 12:12 a.m. CST

    the reasons why I know Cloud Atlas sucks without seeing it

    by cgih8r

    They have a trailer that's like 6 minutes long and still can't give us any sense of a story. It is oversaturated with sub-par CGI that hasn't been seen since the Matrix sequels and still undeservingly tries to pass off it's lame uninspired CGI as being eye candy. It's got Halle Barry in it and it's directed by the same dudes that made the Matrix sequels. One of those dudes doesn't want to be recognized as a dude anymore. It's more concerned with trying to convince us that it's an epic instead of just simply being an epic ("cough" Prometheus "cough, cough") I'm not falling for this shit anymore. You can throw all the gorgeous CGI landscapes you want at me and all the snazzy made-for-trailer one liners you can come up with. I'm not paying $10 to go see something that doesn't have a fucking script. Leave the cool gadgets and green screens at home for all I care and just give me a fucking story you shallow hacks. And to you reviewers, even if the movie is as good as you say, there IS a way (believe it or not) to say a movie is good without resorting to sucking the director's dick.

  • About time mankind grows out of such silly superstitions. Also, i don't need to agree with a movie's message to like it. I don't agree with The Fountain's message but i loved the movie. Same can happen with Cloud Atlas. Or not.

  • Oct. 27, 2012, 9:18 a.m. CST


    by malificus

    I'm with you on the green screen cgi shit man, funky-talking animation animal movies too. the problem i see is people's inability to "grow beyond" childish religious bullshit but then seek a truer, deeper spiritual truth and not have the hubris to immediately just state "religion is silly-there is no god, grow up". Not acknowledging god is not progress of any kind and is pure ego.

  • Oct. 27, 2012, 1:13 p.m. CST

    Don't get it

    by Sandman

    Go to a movie, get a series of shorts instead? Don't see why I would want to do that.

  • Oct. 27, 2012, 1:15 p.m. CST


    by cgih8r

    I am a non-believer but I think we mostly agree with eachother. I agree it comes from ego to completely dismiss religion as being something "silly", it comes from an unwillingness to see the larger picture. If there wasn't utility in at least acknowledging God then believers wouldn't outnumber non-believers to the extent that they always have. The only reality is perception and if you believe in God then God exists in your universe. The only thing that matters is what we value. Do you value petty details? I believe that a "deeper spiritual truth" is happiness and unity and that trancends the accuracy of any presumptions that are made in getting there. That's not a pro-religion statement btw or anti.

  • Oct. 27, 2012, 1:39 p.m. CST

    @cgih84 & malificus

    by Jamel

    Saying it's ego to dismiss religion as being silly is exactly like saying it's ego to claim that the world is round or that 2+2=4. The reason believers outnumber non-believers is because ignorance reigns supreme. There was a time where more people, for instance, believed blacks were inferior to whites. Maybe it's still that way. Does that mean there's something to that belief? Of course not! Your use of the word god only in the singular demonstrates your level of bias on the matter. Which god am I suppose to acknowledge, hm? Zeus, perhaps? How about Cthulu? How much should I bet that you haven't even considered those choices? No, the only reality is not perception, it's REALITY. Just because you belief it, doesn't make it true. That law of attraction nonsense you're spewing is laughable at best. Tell the victims of 9/11 that the only thing that matters is what they value; instead of the fact none of us live in a vacuum and thus our beliefs affect those around us. You can't get unity with religion, because religion divides people. That's my rant for the day.

  • Oct. 27, 2012, 3:56 p.m. CST


    by malificus

    I'm not defending religion in any way as much as saying that I feel the need to acknowledge a higher power than myself. One of the first things I say about "god" is that by it's very nature it would be so far superior to me and my thought processes that it is foolish for me to try so I don't, I merely believe an ultimate creator intelligence exists. I only use the word "god" in that it's the easiest, most recognizable term for the subject I'm communicating about. I don't buy that believers are ignorant, we exist in a classroom where, unfortunately, all 12 grades of of the school are trying to learn in the same room. Some folks get a lot out of going to some prosaic church and listening to the preacher man and I refuse to put myself above them because I choose to research and seek my own answers. It may seem a bit backward and childish to me but every gets what they need and more importantly what they can handle. I don't know what "law of attraction nonsense I'm 'spewing' but it would be nice to discuss it without being insulting. I never said dismissing religion is silly, I said denying that god exists because you are so much smarter than religious fools is hubris. If you're going to criticize what I say have enough respect to at least get it right.

  • Oct. 27, 2012, 3:58 p.m. CST

    I guess I meant Luminus mostly, sorry scirocco and cg

    by malificus

  • Oct. 27, 2012, 4:36 p.m. CST

    Am I the only one who was let down with Cloud Atlas

    by Kal-EL84

    Maybe im retarded or something, i saw it last monday and my cousin and I walked out thinking nothing was really connected. The Cloud atlas Sextet wasnt even really connected to but two lives. I was looking forward mostly to The Most Distant Future timeline with Tom Hanks and Halle Berry. Until i thought either again I was retarded or could nobody understand a lick of what tom hanks or anyone was really saying. All i could understand was " true true" and whats up with Agent Smith Mad Hatter guy, he comes in and out of scenes almost like a sickness to tom hanks head. tells tom hanks he just wants a peice of ass and kill her, AD THEM BOOM! He's gone forever!. I did on the otherhand love the story of Timothy Cavendish I thought this was the only story that had a sense of where the character had been, where he was, and where is was going. this story & Adam Ewings was the only story I actually cared about about the character. all the other storys felt empty and rushed and didnt give you any real reason to care! I found, excited, bored, entertained, bored, let down, confused, excited again through out the whole movie and then walking out i was let down thinking this is not the movie i was so excited to see! AND WHAT THE HELL WAS TOM HANKS SAYING IN THE DISTANT FUTURE!!!!!

  • Oct. 28, 2012, 1:58 a.m. CST


    by cgih8r

    ok first off, calm down...calm? ok. I don't want to insult your intelligence but calling religion silly is not the same as saying 2+2=4, one is your opinion and the other is fact. However, even tho you think it is silly I still cannot say that you are wrong because you are entitled to your own opinion. The only reality is perception. When I referred to the god idea as "God" in the singular I was doing it out of respect for malificus because he was the one I was writing to. I have no bias on what someone chooses to define as "god". That's not the point. You use the idea of blacks being inferior to whites as being a useless concept. Well don't you believe people who believe in religion are intellectually inferior to you? You are talking about prejudice and there is utility in that for better or worse. Anyways that's the short response to your comment and I've already taken this too far because this is a Cloud Atlas talkback.

  • Oct. 28, 2012, 5:09 a.m. CST

    except I've seen all of this before

    by applescruff

  • Oct. 28, 2012, 5:14 a.m. CST

    This movie is pieces of like 12 other movies strung together

    by applescruff

    I caught parts of The Fountain, The Matrix trilogy, V For Vendetta, Lord Of The Rings, Amistad, Perfume, Soylent Green, The International, The China Syndrome, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and a bunch of others I'm forgetting. This is the film equivalent of an Eton Mess, a dessert served at Eton College which is basically a whole bunch of leftover desserts thrown into a bowl together. Having said all that, I somehow still liked the movie, though nowhere near the kind of praise you guys have been heaping on it.

  • Oct. 28, 2012, 12:50 p.m. CST

    The Fountain was Genius

    by Kal-EL84

    I walked out of that movie, thinking that was one hell of a movie. everything made sense for the most part, and the more i watched it the more i picked up. AND YOU ACTUALLY CARE ABOUT THE CHARACTERS!. I walked out of cloud atlas with nothing but a hemroid