Review: Cloud Atlas

Sometimes trailers can cause an emotional connection. Upon seeing the first trailer release for “Cloud Atlas” this summer, I knew I had to see this film. The trouble with great trailers is that in some cases they create expectations that a movie cannot hope to reach. This was a fear I had before going to see “Cloud Atlas” earlier this week.

“Cloud Atlas” is one of the most expensive independent films created of all time. With a budget of $102 million, writers and directors Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer stopped at no expense to create one of the most visually stunning and best uses of makeup and CGI I have seen all year. This alone would be enough to draw interest in this film, but there is also an ensemble cast featuring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, James D’Arcy, Zhou Xun, Keith David, Susan Sarandon, and Hugh Grant. As if this cast wasn’t enough, each actor portrays multiple characters along six story arcs. Ambitious barely begins to describe this movie.

The movie has six stories that intertwine throughout the film. It is not told in a chronological narrative, but instead lets each story weave in and out drawing the viewer’s interest just in time to change focus towards another plot. Out of the six stories told, three were great and kept me interested every time it was their turn to further their plot and the other three stories merely provided enough interest to keep me entertained. The different actors are seen in different roles throughout each story. Some look similar to their future or past selves, and others nothing alike.

“Cloud Atlas” caught me off guard. I was expecting to sit down and see a film that was about people. I thought that it would focus on characters and how they changed, grew, and became better or worse because of the events and people around them. This was an element to the film, but with a run time of 172 minutes, “Cloud Atlas” still didn’t have enough time to really search each character’s potential. The majority of each character had little to do with their other selves. For example, Tom Hanks played a dishonest doctor, a sleazy hotel manager, a morally conscious employee, a manic mobster, an actor, and a father in a post-apocalyptic future. While Hanks did a great job portraying each character, rarely did these characters have any ties to each other. This left me wondering if the multiple acting was necessary to the overall narrative.

But what “Cloud Atlas” did do, it did well, and that was creating stories that were compelling and sucked the audience in.  While overarching connections were not made with every character, I found myself cheering for the connected ones in every scene, whether in the year 1849 or 2144. The last 20 minutes of “Cloud Atlas” are moving and make the rest of the film well worth viewing. The overall theme of “everyone is connected” and “our actions affect others in the present, past and future” is told in a creative and original way. I suggest this film for anyone who enjoys compelling stories, good special effects, or great science fiction adventures.


– Written and submitted to The Hub by Trace Thomas


About Trace Thomas
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