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Review: Cloud Atlas

Warner Bros. Pictures: Xun Zhou in "Cloud Atlas"The Wachowski’s (formerly known as The Wachowski brothers) blasted on to the Hollywood scene with The Matrix, a hugely popular science fiction action flick that made a lasting impression on the masses of fans that they caught the eyes, minds and hearts of. As successful as they were with The Matrix and its two subsequent sequels that followed, they haven’t been able catch that magic again with their recent work. They hope to change that with Cloud Atlas. This film represents an opportunity for the Bros to potentially reestablish themselves as risk taking film makers.

Based on David Mitchell’s novel that carries the same name, The Wachowski’s, along with fellow director Tom Tykwer tell a single story that spans over the course of 500 years. Based on multiple acts that have both good and bad consequences, we’re shown how choices over time can change history. The connections here are not only predicated on the choices that are made, but also by the souls of each individual that crosses paths with one another over multiple lifetimes as each is born and reborn into another form and timeline.

The storyline that is seen in Cloud Atlas begins on a slave ship heading toward America in the 1800’s, and stretches all the way into another kind of ship into the 23rd Century. In order to pull this off, this entails a good amount of creativity from the people behind the film’s creation. Predictably, it also entails the use a lot of time, both in real life and movie time. The Wachowski’s made sure that you’d have to clear out a good chunk of your day just watch this film as it’s nearly three hours long.

To eat up time in this long-winded attempt at an epic adventure, the multiple aspects of this story feature love, action, espionage, loyalty, back-stabbing and a revolt. Throughout these various events, we bare witness to several actors playing multiple characters. Out of all of the primary actors, I think the they all had the chance to play at least three or four different people in the film. That’s probably something that any hardworking actor who loves his job would want to do. To play several different characters with drastically different personalities and motives can really allow for any actor to show the range they might have.

That is one of the best features in Cloud Atlas from my perspective. When watching the film it was actually fun trying to see which actors were portraying which characters at times, because it was simply too difficult to tell in a few instances. If you can’t figure them all out on your own, just watch the credits and they’ll let you know as they show the actors in all of their roles throughout the film.

Tom Hanks leads this deep cast as they sift through their hectic worlds. The actors appeared to be putting a ton of effort into their roles and they also seemed to be having fun doing it. When you’re talking about a film that goes on as long as this one did, you have to be committed in order for it all to be successful. Not only are these guys committed, but they also are able to put forth some legitimate displays of quality acting with their engaging performances.

As I stated earlier, Cloud Atlas stretches over 500 years with stops in the late 19th Century, the 1930’s, the 1970’s, 2012, the 22nd Century and the 23rd Century. They don’t show all of this stuff one at a time. All of it is essentially shown concurrently with the story jumping from timeline to timeline without warning. There’s a slow build up while they’re setting up the film’s backbone. They spend a large amount of time introducing the many characters right before they begin to develop their individual stories and personalities.

Once all of that’s done, they slowly, but surely start to connect everything that’s going on. Some of the connections appear to be small, while some of them are clearly complete game changers right from the outset. All in all, it gives you a nice range of actions and decisions that will alter the future in Cloud Atlas.

Out of all of the connecting that they try to do, I actually wanted them to do more of it. Through much of the movie, it felt like I was watching a film version of a soap opera in terms of its style and structure. In many of these scenes, the connections don’t come to later on and every once in a while, it’s simply done to connect certain people through the ages in ways that don’t really matter. Because of how it’s structured, I honestly feel like some of these stories could have been separate movies. I especially would have loved a couple of movies based on the 1970’s and the 22nd Century portions of Cloud Atlas. Those were nice!

I probably like those two parts of the movie the best, because they had the most action. Seeing as these are the same brothers behind The Matrix Trilogy, I did think I was going to see more action than I did. While that’s not what happened, I did feel satisfied with the action that I got to witness. In particular, both of these specific eras in the film, which displayed a decent amount of action that’s fast and interesting.

Cloud Atlas is a unique film that forced me to write a unique review. If you’ve ever read any of my reviews, you’d know that I do like to go into detail by talking about the characters and their personalities from time to time. Due to the fact that there are so many different characters played by different actors, it would be hard for me to do that at all in this particular situation. I left out every single role any of the actors had to play and I left out the importance of each of them also. Talking about most of it would make my review even longer and it may spoil some of the many surprises that potential movie goers would experience.

Although some people do believe in it, there will never be a way for us to prove if there’s any validity to the ideas that involve reincarnation. We do know that like in Cloud Atlas, what we do in the present will help mold the future for ourselves, our loved ones and people who we’ll probably never meet or even hear about. I like the ideas that this film spoke about and it made for intriguing cinema. I just wish they would have created more of a connection with the character consistently in mind, body and spirit.

Did The Wachowski’s build an epic film in Cloud Atlas with Tykwer? In my humble opinion, I’d have to say that they didn’t. They did however, manage to build a movie set in a world of wonder that’s both entertaining and nice to look a. I guess I’m saying that this also shows their ability to put together something that will make you feel as if you’ve gotten your money’s worth once you leave the theater. No matter if you’re talking about an award-winning film or something that’s strictly created for people to enjoy,  that’s something that I will always be cool with.

Score: 3.5/5

Rating: R

Lana Wachowski
Andy Wachowski
Tom Tykwer

Tom Hanks
Halle Berry
Jim Broadbent
Hugo Weaving
Jim Sturgess
Doona Bae
Ben Whishaw
James D’Arcy
Xun Zhou
Keith David
David Gyas
Susan Sarandon
Hugh Grant

Film Length: 172 minutes

Release Date: October 26, 2012

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

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