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I wish I knew where to begin when talking about CLOUD ATLAS. The big screen adaptation of David Mitchell’s novel from the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer is just so much movie, following at times six different story arcs, that it’s damn near impossible to do any of it justice without ripping off a 50-page thesis. However, what I can tell you is that CLOUD ATLAS is no ordinary film. This is a profound experience with big thought-provoking ideas that challenges you to consider each one of our places in the world and how it affects everyone around us, whether during the present time or way off in the future. On an intellectual level, this is the film that PROMETHEUS wishes it was in trying to raise unanswered questions that force us to ponder the nature of our very existence, and, much more than films like THE TREE OF LIFE or THE FOUNTAIN, which attempt to do something similar, CLOUD ATLAS succeeds at being both visually stunning and emotionally engaging, drawing you in with interesting characters whose motivations are easy to understand and connecting with you on the very simple premise that all of humanity is linked together in some form or another. CLOUD ATLAS is an incredibly ambitious film that doesn’t need to be seen more than once for you to comprehend it, but you’re going to want to absorb every last frame again and again in the hopes that you take in something new upon each subsequent viewing for a richer and even more satisfying appreciation of ideas and art.

Where the Wachowskis examined mankind’s purpose throughout THE MATRIX Trilogy, CLOUD ATLAS goes even deeper in pondering our existence, raising the premise that our ordinary and simple lives may not even be our own, as we are bound to others – past, present and future – in such a way that the fact that we ever set foot on this earth will have a ripple effect on the world for eternity. Mind equals blown, and that’s just scratching the metaphysical surface as CLOUD ATLAS brings about inquiries into religion, philosophy, déjà vu, fate, destiny, karma, freedom, cosmic forces as it bends genres, incorporating elements of science fiction, romance, action-adventure, comedy, mystery, drama, conspiracy films, films of redemption, good old fashioned capers and revolution. There really is something for everyone in this epic piece of storytelling, and, for most of you, you’ll find yourself compelled by just about everything CLOUD ATLAS offers.

It’s almost expected to get something amazing to the eye from the Wachowskis and Tykwer, and CLOUD ATLAS certainly doesn’t fall short on that challenge, as the three directors do a truly unbelievable job in creating six different living, breathing worlds in which this wide array of souls lives, but without the ability to also create characters we can identify, it merely be another film of all style, no substance. However, using Mitchell’s novel as a blueprint, the trio who also penned the script are able to construct this set of personalities that represent what it is to be human – our flaws, our weaknesses, our vulnerabilities, our love, our passion, our greed, our fears, etc. They are the vehicles by which meaningful ideas are delivered, and with an impressive collection of actors and actresses – Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, James D’Arcy, Zhou Xun, Keith David, David Gyasi, Susan Sarandon and Hugh Grant – all in roles unlike anything you’ve seen them do before, CLOUD ATLAS is able to take huge risks in essentially combining six fully realized stories into one cohesive film.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the superb editing job done by Alexander Berner, who seamlessly pieces together these various story arcs. There is a great deal to bring together, and yet Berner is able to keep each story moving, while cutting back and forth between the other timelines at play, never losing you once in what’s going on and always keeping you locked in on the characters at hand. Multiple stories match beats at the same time, as if they’re on the same trajectory, and to cut those highs and lows simultaneously is really a thing of beauty. The score, which also shifts in sound between the numerous stories and the genres they toy with, is another rewarding piece of the puzzle. Johnny Klimek, Reinhold Heil and Tom Tykwer’s music, which I was compelled to listen to now, as I write this, is an impressive collection of musical stylings that accentuate the brilliance of the film and the enormity of its scope. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself wanting to grab a copy upon leaving the theatre, because the music of CLOUD ATLAS truly is some powerful stuff.

I get that CLOUD ATLAS isn’t going to be for everyone, but, if you’re a lover of cinema, this is one you absolutely must see. For all the bitching we do collectively about the state of movies these days, whether it’s the constant bombardment of sequels or reboots or prequels, here we have an incredibly ambitious and brave film that tries to do something innovative and different. That’s the type of film that should be celebrated, and as a film fan, even if it winds up not floating your boat, I am fairly certain you can at least find some degree of appreciation for the type of film Tykwer and the Wachowskis attempted to make. CLOUD ATLAS worked for me on a number of different levels, and the more I think about it, the more I love it. This is a film I urge you to check out. Movies like this don’t come around often anymore.


-Billy Donnelly

"The Infamous Billy The Kidd"

Follow me on Twitter.

Readers Talkback
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  • Some will hate it and some will love it.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 1:39 a.m. CST

    So, is it better than Speed Racer?

    by Raptor Jesus

    Inquiring minds want to know.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 1:41 a.m. CST


    by doom master

    It's written all over it. How can anyone NOT see this BS for what it is?

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 1:42 a.m. CST

    What should we take before viewing?


    LSD? Mushrooms? MDMA? PCP?

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 1:45 a.m. CST

    Will it perform?

    by pearlanddean

    I have to wonder if there's much of an appetite for films like this. I hope it does well but I have a feeling that a lot of filmgoers will scratch their heads and pass it by. Don't know when it's coming in the UK but there's been zero in the way of promotion so far. Tom Hanks is usually a draw but anything which smacks of 'sci-fi' (which I know this isn't but....) is likely to be a turn-off. I haven't read the book but I am intrigued by the reviews I've read so far and really want to see this on the big screen. Let's hope it lasts more than a week.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 2:10 a.m. CST

    I have read the book...

    by drave117

    ...and I'm still intrigued. The book could never be literally translated to the screen, and I don't think that's what they are going for. It looks like it will capture the spirit of the book, while still finding its own thesis, which is fine with me. Consider my butt in the theater at 11am sharp.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 2:20 a.m. CST


    by gruemanlives

    Wouldn't that be awesome?

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 3:01 a.m. CST

    Kidd does not exist in this dojo

    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. * Kidd, you say that if youre a lover of cinema this is a must see so how do you explain the slating this film is getting from the majority of the press? Are those professional reviewers not lovers of cinema?

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 3:11 a.m. CST

    Just got back from a midnight show in NYC

    by misterfurly

    And I totally agree with the Kidd on this. I dug what it had to say about humanity love and what we are doing here and what's important and that individuals make a difference and that there's more to the relationships in your life than you might think. On top of that it's a well done and emotional piece of cinema. Will the make up and bits and pieces not work for everyone? Sure. But the people who this strikes a chord with will love it. The sonmi story (future pre apocalypse) really floored me emotionally.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 3:45 a.m. CST

    saw it..............mehhhhhhhh

    by macheesmo3

    If you are on of those people who likes to believe in all sorts of "woo" involving interpersonal connections and have this grand ideal of how beautiful everything would be if we would just "stop fighting man, and just be beautiful" then you are gonna love this. I'm a hard boiled ,long time, life beaten skeptic of everything that can't be backed up with evidence. so I thought it was a preachy bore.... visuals are amazing, score is very very good, performances are,overall, well done. It just smelled like I had just been told that my "chakras" were out of balance with a 57 yr old fat kindergarten teach and everything would be right with the world if I just went to her and made that happen." oh, and paid the asshle who told me this $1200

  • just rediculous in this day and age.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 4:28 a.m. CST

    Ignore Cobra

    by Glenn

    He's posting the same thing in all the CLOUD ATLAS reviews. Very childish but I guess he needs the attention.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 5:08 a.m. CST

    Cobra-ARE U A LEMMING?

    by ray a

    So what if the majority of reviewers are not giving the same assessment of this movie. That proves nothing. One thing I do know is that besides Kidd, the one other reviewer that I trust and respect, even if I don't always agree with, is Roger Ebert and he gave it 4 stars. Yeah, now I know the primary response by you or others will be to find reason to dismiss Ebert but based on the reasoning he brings to his reviews and his overall body of work, I think its more logical to dismiss you.

  • And Cobra's life is completely insignificant.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 5:27 a.m. CST

    Kidd-Excellent review!

    by ray a

    You were able to convey the essence of this movie without feeling the need to simply tell us the story and plot points. Some movies can be explained but occasionally we get that gem of a movie that simply must be experienced. The fact of the matter is that not everybody is ready for a movie like Cloud Atlas but perhaps one day if and when they are this movie and those like it will be waiting for them. Sometimes a movie is much more than a movie and it can be a vehicle for our imagination and intellect if we would only free our minds from the conventional contraints we normally impose on movies.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 5:40 a.m. CST

    60% on rottentomatoes.

    by UltimaRex

    Big praise. Big letdowns. No inbetween. This is polarizing on a whole 'other level. It being released in february in the UK should tell you something about what WB thinks about it. What this means for a Wachowski JL... Who knows?

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 5:42 a.m. CST

    Won't get to see it for at least another week, but I'm still excited

    by WerePlatypus

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 7:28 a.m. CST

    My feeling about this movie is...

    by F-18

    that it's going to be one of those that, if a negative opinion is expressed about it, the criitcism will met with "You just don't get it".

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 7:41 a.m. CST

    Lemming does not exist in this dojo

    by Cobra--Kai

    Ha! No im not a lemming - in fact quite the opposite, I prefer the QED approach. Question everything done. So when the Kidd states that *if youre a lover of cinema this is an absolute must see.*.. why then do the majority of professional reviewers say its awful? Thus I question the Kidd and ask him to explain. Are those professional reviewers not lovers of cinema? ps. fuck you tommywiseau, you're named after the most insignificant carbuncle on the ass of the industry.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 7:56 a.m. CST

    ^ what he said...PLUS The Golden Compass

    by doom master

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 8:02 a.m. CST

    The Kidd vs. 52% on Metacritic

    by ScriptCunt

    Oh, to be young and simple-minded enough to be profoundly moved by sophomoric philosophical meanderings (what the Wachowskis do best). Whoa... and have you ever realized that 'DOG' spelled backwards is 'GOD'?

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 8:15 a.m. CST

    ^^Triple pack. Even better value.

    by adeceasedfan

    But is it really?

  • More collectivist propaganda from Hollywood. There is no 'we.' There is you, and I, and others. The idea of we is the idea of enslavement of the individual. There is enough of that going on in the real world, I don't need it in my entertainment.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 8:26 a.m. CST

    Speaking as an avid movie lover...

    by TheMachinist

    I'm furiously skeptical. On the one hand, I really want to see how they're able to weave six stories into one. On the other hand, it seems like it might be a little TOO above everyone's heads, to the point of being pretentious. Guess I'll have to see it and find out.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 8:30 a.m. CST

    I Want To See It . . .


    I enjoyed Speed Racer. I loved Neo's discussion with the architect in Matrix Reloaded. Not a huge fan of V for Vendetta, but I might like it better if I watched it again. I'm not expecting to have my world rocked. But you never know.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 8:31 a.m. CST

    I Will Like It Better than Golden Compass


    Which was absolute garbage, IMHO. I will also like it better than What Dreams Will Come, which was actually an alternate take on Patch Adams, only that time, everybody died.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 8:35 a.m. CST

    I really wanna see it

    by Johnboy40

    I would rather see this try and fail 90% of the movies that shoved out at use, made to a release date. as for reviewers, I will guarantee the lana wachowski's change of sex influences at least 10% of reviews, professional or otherwise. Especially in coutries that have a heavy religious bent (like Italy, for example)

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 8:39 a.m. CST

    And as a book lover...

    by TheMachinist

    Never read the damn thing. If they can make a movie out of this, they can sure as hell make House of Leaves.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 8:42 a.m. CST

    Whatchu talking bout

    by adeceasedfan

    No time traveling today? BTW I would love a Patch Adams alternate cut where everybody dies.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 8:49 a.m. CST

    PatchAdams does not exist in this dojo

    by Cobra--Kai

    I'd like a cloud atlas style reworking of PATCH ADAMS where we get to see Patch as a dr during the the American Civil War, working as a clown in the Russian state circus, and then Patch in the future operating on Bicentennial Man... that sort of shit. All interconnected timeframes in a Patch Adams Patchwork. MAKE IT HAPPEN!

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 8:53 a.m. CST

    by Cobra--Kai

    I might just make my own edit using random Robin Williams footage from PATCH ADAMS, BICENTENNIAL MAN, WHAT DREAMS MAY COME, GOOD MORNING VIETNAM and that one where he works in a photo booth and whacks off over the pics. Cut all those scenes together and pretend it's just PATCH ADAMS living alternate cloud atlas lives. Who wants to come over to the Dojo for a movie night and check out the premiere? Its gonna be deep.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 9:08 a.m. CST

    I'll bring the popcorn.

    by adeceasedfan

    Just don't cut any of my scenes. A weeks worth of extra work whittled down to a crowd shot. Boo Tom Shadyac. I'm a STAR! Tie my shoe!

  • For the record, this is Kidd's OPINION!! as with ALL FREAKING REVIEWERS ON THE PLANET!! O.P.I.N.I.O.N. Definition of opinion: noun "A view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge" You're 1st post is typical of people on this site who think they have the most important thing to say. Again, for the record, I don't not like you Cobra, sometimes you say interesting stuff. But more often then not, you're spouting off negative shit about some reviewer like you could do better. It comes across like you wish you had a job writing for AICN. A review (usually a film) is always based on personal taste. so yeah, relaxxxxxx, you have to relax when you make the crank call.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 9:20 a.m. CST

    spewbacca. LOL!!!!

    by adeceasedfan

    Do you have Prince Albert in the can?

  • Brilliant movie.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 9:26 a.m. CST


    by Meathook

    Movies like this don’t come around often anymore

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 9:32 a.m. CST

    btw dojo, spew

    by adeceasedfan

    That LOL was in regards to the crank call line. You can settle your differences in the arena. Full contact.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 9:39 a.m. CST

    by Cobra--Kai

    adeceasedfan, im still just reeling from the fact that you were in PATCH ADAMS! If I was a deceased fan that's something i'd want on my headstone.

  • Wouldn't it be great if everyone was nice to each other for a change? It's just a guess, but I find that when I'm told any piece of fiction is really 'profound', or 'mind-expanding', or whatever, the message can almost always be boiled down to that one sentence.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 9:43 a.m. CST


    by adeceasedfan

    And I shall be laid to rest with a foam clown nose. Open casket of course.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 9:48 a.m. CST


    by Meathook

    The supernatural is real because of the amount of first hand experience? You mean because of the amount you experienced? Because of the amount of stories of other people's experiences? That makes no sense. At all.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 9:49 a.m. CST


    by Meathook

    I was a bit too wordy. I should have said what you said.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 10:05 a.m. CST

    Collectivist crap.

    by Nintendarth


  • We know thayt Brid can direct big live action movies and do it with style.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 10:24 a.m. CST

    fuck, wrong tread

    by albert comin

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 10:33 a.m. CST

    Well it's probably just some simple easy to ex

    by UltraTron

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 10:34 a.m. CST

    adeceasedfan lets go play sun stare.

    by peter

  • man-made lies. Real supernatural or technology beyond our capabilities indistinguishable from magic shit.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 10:49 a.m. CST

    You can

    by UltraTron

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 10:59 a.m. CST

    Haha. Just kidding. No god for you.

    by UltraTron

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 11:16 a.m. CST

    Thnks again, Kidd

    by Kremzeek

    Wasn't interested in this in the slightest until I read your review. Very cool. Looking forward to checking it out now. But, I must say: All the (collective) bitching about 'Prometheus' is completely unwarranted. I *finally* was able to see it recently, and I absolutely loved it. Loved the story. Loved the acting. Loved all the long, epic shots--especially at the beginning. It definitely feels like the first 'Alien' in tone, and I loved that too. Sure, there were a few things lacking in a couple areas, but you can say that about any movie, really. And, now that a sequel is pretty much happening, all those who hated the "unanswered questions" will be able to get some of the answers they were seeking (hopefully). But I digress. Thanks again for the review. I've been hesitant to watch anything the Wachowskis make since the 3rd 'Matrix' and onward. So, I'm glad to see Kidd praise 'Cloud Atlas'. I hope it's a return to form for the "brothers" (hehe, I couldn't resist).

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 11:25 a.m. CST

    I didn't much care for it - WATCH IT ANYWAY!

    by impetus

    CLOUD ATLAS is hit & miss, but you should watch it anyway. It's always engaging & interesting, and provides a lot to think on and discuss. Despite its flaws, there's just so much it brings to the table. Regardless of your opinion of it, it deserves to be experienced. (In this way, one might compare it to Prometheus). It is true that I was disappointed by it, in a large part because of the misleading trailer which promised a very different (and better) film from the one I saw, and also because some distracting elements present. BUT the film we got is a lavish and daring 3-hour, high-concept, decently budgeted, R-rated film that is unlike anything that's come before it, and isn't a sequel/remake. This demands our attention. Support studios and filmmakers who make high-risk, big-budget grown-up films with your dollars, or get more like Jack & Jill: Human Centipede.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 12:52 p.m. CST

    so is this a SciFi chick flick or what?

    by gk1

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 12:58 p.m. CST

    I still don't know.

    by PorkChopXpress

    I haven't really been that intrigued, based on the trailers I've seen. It LOOKS nice, but I don't know if I'm really all that excited by the story. To be honest, the trailers give me almost no sense of what the story actually IS. But, it's the Wachowskis and Tom Hanks, therefore it's guaranteed to top the box office.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 4:04 p.m. CST

    Everything is everything. Dig it!

    by Smerdyakov

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 4:24 p.m. CST

    I just might see this.

    by Sithtastic

    First off, this is perhaps the one possitive review from the Kidd I have read in a long time, so I know something's up. I am keenly aware the Wachowskis tend to have a collectivist philosophy toward things, so I am wary of buying into the (apparent) subtext of the film. That said though, I remain intrigued by some of the ideas and visuals put forth, so I just might see this.

  • What the kids call deep today is shallow. The movie still looks chok full of obvious CGI and an overbearing score... Like they're cramming it in our face and saying "THIS IS EPIC LOOK AT US WOO HOO!!!" I'll reserve judgement till I see it but it does not look good at all to me... The 5 minute trailer was cringe worthy.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 4:44 p.m. CST

    EPIC means more than the sum of it's parts. PEople today don't get this.


  • Oct. 26, 2012, 6:59 p.m. CST


    by adeceasedfan

    I got six.

  • Oct. 26, 2012, 8:55 p.m. CST

    This review is so terribly written it makes my heart pound.

    by ParagonComplex

    Hey, Kidd, are you related to one of the AICN writers? That's the only way I could see you getting this writing job. Stop using so many damn unnecessary commas amongst other things. Good fucking god, I could write you under a bus. How the hell do I get a job writing on AICN so I can show you how it's done? I am tempted to go through this abysmal atrocity line by line and correct all of your mistakes. You seriously need a damned editor. Not even trying to be an asshole here. You probably really are a kid, and if you take constructive criticism, take English class more seriously, and practice you could have potential. Until then: anata wa mada mada da ne desuyo

  • The different stories were all interesting, and the editing interwove them perfectly. It was great how the scene would change like you would expect from any movie while a character voice over is going on and suddenly you realize it's changed to a different set of characters in a different time period, but it's so smooth you don't notice it at first. But you are still able to follow the stories. And they really are very different stories, that would fit different genres, and for the most part they don't really have anything directly to do with each other.

  • Oct. 27, 2012, 1:15 a.m. CST

    Cloud Atlas: Tom Hanks Got High

    by CodeName

  • Oct. 27, 2012, 4:21 a.m. CST

    This movie left me cold

    by Autodidact

    I just could not see how all this shit was supposed to be tied together. I have literally no idea what the connection between all the various timelines was supposed to be, apart from being very distracting because the same actors keep showing up.

  • Oct. 27, 2012, 5:32 a.m. CST

    porkchop, I saw it today, and the story is..

    by Autodidact

    .. hey look over there, what's that!?

  • Oct. 27, 2012, 10:26 a.m. CST


    by peter

    This is gonna be a bad blasting zone! Remember that last one, we lost Billy?

  • Oct. 27, 2012, 10:43 a.m. CST

    So you're saying I should see Silent Hill: Revelation instead?

    by Jonathan

    Gotcha. >_<

  • yes yes, before you all start shouting and bitching, I fully understand that both are separate films. Anyway, I enjoyed it. It definitely was not boring. It didn't feel like almost 3 hours. It was entertaining. It was very original, clever. I loved seeing actors I'm well accustomed with playing different roles to what we are used to seeing. I didn't get any life changing thoughts flood my mind. I still couldn't really tell you what it was about if you asked. I loved the different segments and the way they interwove. I loved the different makeup styles. The futuristic story was probably my favorite. I wish Lana (larry with no penis) and Andy created more futuristic films similar to The Matrix. I actually wish they revisited another Matrix trilogy with a new cast. I don't care that the Matrix sequels were shitty in Nordlings mind. He can suck my balls for all I care. But I digress, the Cloud Atlas was an original, entertaining piece of cinema which I would happily see again. My wife is not a fan of 'R' rated films, she is sensitive and very visual and has nightmares for weeks if films are too gratuitous but I think this film wasn't too crazy in that area. So I may take her to see this. Go see it. It's unlike anything else out there. Leave your "THIS IS GOING TO BE THE MOST LIFE CHANGING, THOUGHT PROVOKING FILM IN THE HISTORY OF CINEMA" expectations at the door. Simply go, watch enjoy. That's my 2 cents worth for anyone who gives a crap.

  • Oct. 27, 2012, 12:13 p.m. CST

    by Cobra--Kai

    The Kidd vs. PATCH ADAMS. PATCH ADAMS wins.

  • Oct. 27, 2012, 12:43 p.m. CST

    by Cobra--Kai

    No. Not hate for the Kidd. Just love. Love for Patch Adams.

  • Oct. 27, 2012, 5:03 p.m. CST

    that PROMETHEUS wishes it WERE

    by MovieManStill

    Maybe I'm wrong......the whole subjunctive thing is confusing.....

  • Oct. 28, 2012, 12:47 a.m. CST


    by adeceasedfan

    *Just love. Love for Patch Adams* LMFAO!!!

  • Oct. 28, 2012, 12:49 a.m. CST


    by adeceasedfan

    Cat... K--A--T. I'm outta here I know there's two T's.