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.
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