Movie Review: “Cloud Atlas”

Published by Clay Cane on Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 1:00 pm.

(Photo: Warner Bros Pictures)

Summary: Interconnecting stories and characters that cross race, gender, time and even film genres prove we live by our “crime and every kindness.”

Review:  The three creators (Tom Tykwer, Lana Wachowski, Andy Wachowski) of Cloud Atlas clearly know the film based on the best-selling novel is not for everyone. If you were annoyed by Inception, rolled your eyes at Avatar and thought all of the Matrix sequels sucked — Cloud Atlas is your enemy.  Audiences will equally love and hate the mind-bending flick.

As simple as possible, here are breakdowns of the stories: an escaped slave, doctor and lawyer at sea in 1849, an inspiring composer in 1936 Scotland, a nosy reporter in 1973 San Francisco, ballsy senior citizens in a nursing home, a revolt against a corrupt government with an unlikely hero in 2144 Neo Seoul, post-apocalyptic tribes people in the 2300s — yes, a heap to digest. In between, there are wondrous special effects, commentary on race and class and one-line morality zingers (“Love could outlive death,” “Our lives are not our own,” “You ever think the universe was against you?”). Cloud Atlas is a complex mishmash of The Matrix meets Apocalypto meets Amistad — with a touch of Inception and Oprah’s Lifeclass.

Cloud Atlas is also the return of Halle Berry in a big budget film. With Tom Hanks by her side, Berry proves why she is still relevant after over 20 years in the industry. Berry is a star who owns her talent.  Other notables were veteran Keith David and David Gyasi, who played an escaped slave and is definitely someone to watch.

One downfall of the many stories: characters are left unfinished.  You will definitely ask, “What happened to … ?”  But the most powerful and developed plot was 2144 Neo Seoul, a creepy tale of corruption, greed and disregard for human life.  In the end, love is the message, but love does not conquer all.

Outside of Cloud Atlas‘ laborious storyline, the heart of the story is that we are all connected. Not a groundbreaking concept, but the manner in which the film crisscrosses race, gender, class, religion and sexual orientation makes (most of) the 164-minute running time fascinating to watch. Never have I seen so much diversity in a big budget film.  Moreover, the varied stories didn’t feel like tokens; there was a bright authenticity in each character.  Regardless of whether Cloud Atlas always got it right for the nearly three hours it was on screen, the intention was to tell a transcendental story of unity — spiritual and physical. Many times audiences watch films and do not feel represented on the big screen. Everyone is genuinely represented in Cloud Atlas.

That said, Cloud Atlas needed severe editing.  Only a Broadway show should be nearly three hours long — and even the Great White Way has an intermission!

Cloud Atlas is in theaters Friday, October 26.

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