Cloud Atlas Review

The Plot

Cloud Atlas is a sprawling science fiction adventure that interweaves six different stories set across the course of human history exploring how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future. One soul is shaped from a killer into a hero and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.

The Good

Adapted from David Mitchell’s bestselling novel and directed by Matrix visionaries Andy & Lana Wachowski, Cloud Atlas is undeniably different and ambitious. Spreading the various stories across time and space, from 19th Century colonialism to a post-apocalyptic future, ensures that at the very least the film is visually varied and set against a truly vast backdrop of human history.

The Wachowskis have assembled an enviable ensemble cast of accomplished character actors. Tom Hanks, Jim Broadbent and Halle Berry may be the most instantly recognisable a-list stars, but in truth it is talents like Doona Bae and Ben Wishaw that really steal the show.

The undeniable strength of the film’s cast and lavish production value allows it to move with relative success between its multiple storylines. Jumping back and forth between these seemingly distant worlds create a tangible sense of momentum and increasing connection between them. It admittedly demands close attention from an audience, but it rewards such dedicated viewing.

Taken as a whole Cloud Atlas meditates on grand themes like love, freedom and destiny; but its individual elements are self-contained stories that both entertain and captivate.

The Bad

Some audiences will find the film’s unashamedly epic three hour run time a little daunting. The way the film rapidly moves back and forth between so many different stories is impressive but will make the film confusing and hard to follow for those looking for a more straightforward blockbuster adventure.

Having the same core cast of actors playing different characters in each story is an obvious and practical choice, helping to some extent to integrate and connect the fractured plotlines. However it also presents its own challenges as the cast are often more convincing in some roles than others.

It’s a particular problem where heavy makeup is required, for example attempts to transform Hugo Weaving in to a woman and Halle Berry into a man are simply distracting. Burying actors beneath rubber faced prosthetics and an elaborate wig rarely enhances a performance and can actively ruin one when it fails to convince an audience.

While the majority of the film’s multiple storylines succeed, some are more obviously effective than others. Spreading a narrative across so many different stories introduces complexity but inevitably makes it harder to consistently satisfy an audience. In particular, the film’s post-apocalyptic sequences featuring Tom hanks as a jive-talking wilderness man and Hugo Weaving as an imaginary green bogeyman may seem a little ridiculous in comparison to other sections of more credible contemporary drama.

The Ugly Truth

Cloud Atlas has divided critical opinions fiercely and will almost certainly have the same effect on audiences. Some will admire it as ambitious and boldly original storytelling that strives to be intelligent, thought provoking and entertaining. Others will dismiss it as a pretentious mess that struggles to be as clever, subtle or coherent as it needed to be.  Ultimately you absolutely should see it for yourself, because it is worth having an opinion and you might just love it.

Check out video interviews below with the full cast ahead of the UK Premiere:

Leave A Comment