An exploration of how peoples' actions ripple throughout
history, affecting others' lives for the better or for the worse.
Cloud Atlas (2012)
Written and Directed by Lana Wachowski,
Lilly Wachowski, Tom Tykwer
Starring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent,
Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw,
Hugh Grant, James D'Arcy, Keith David, Susan Sarandon
Based on the novel by David Mitchell
Cloud Atlas is one the most ambitious films I've ever watched. It's comprised of six interconnected stories that span six different time periods from the mid-1800's to after the fall of mankind. Every actor in the film portrays multiple characters in these different timelines, and ultimately it showcases the healing power of love in all its glory. Frankly, Cloud Atlas is a film that never would've worked had it not been for the unique vision of the Wachowskis, who are already experienced with crafting confusing, philosophical epics that span various time periods (see The Matrix for further evidence). They really bring it home with this one.
To discuss the plot would just give me a headache, so I'll spotlight the performances instead. Everyone is fantastic, with Tom Hanks and Halle Berry leading an all-star cast of character actors, most of whom perform outside their wheelhouse multiple times. I particularly liked seeing Hugo Weaving and Hugh Grant as various villains, from slimy businessmen to monstrous cannibals to the literal Devil himself. Each story uses love as a tool to heal the sick and bring together the lonely masses. Our six stories involve a potential slave-owner dying of an illness on a voyage in 1849, a talented composer on the run in the 1930's, a reporter looking into an oil company's corruption in the 1970's, an elderly publisher's escape from a nursing home in 2012, a Korean clone learning of her lot in life and leading a revolution in 2144, and a tribesman warring with cannibals hundreds of years after the fall of man. Amazingly, all six stories are engrossing and satisfying. Not a weak link among them.
Cloud Atlas is a big watch. It's eight minutes shy of three hours long, and if you're not paying attention, you will get lost very quickly. But if you have the determination to see it through, I don't think you'll be disappointed. It's a series of engaging stories that all come together with the same timeless theme and represented by a host of great performances.