Review: Cloud Atlas
What We ThoughtGenre: Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi
What We Liked :Successful Weaving Narrative, Tremendous Orchestral Score
What We Disliked:Acting Spotty in Places, May Confuse a lot of would be admirers
A spectacular achievement in storytelling, Cloud Atlas is one of this years most intriguing and important films.
A collection of stories that all communicate into a greater meaning, Cloud Atlas is one of this year’s most important films. The Wachowski’s siblings and Tom Tykwer have done what many people thought was impossible, they have successfully weaved the various narratives of Cloud Atlas together into a compelling story. While the message and stories might not all be equal in regards to payoff or even being compelling, Cloud Atlas is a true innovation in storytelling.
All six of the different stories in Cloud Atlas cover different genres of film and vastly different time periods. The acclaimed novel by David Mitchell weaves the multiple stories together that include mystery, science-fiction, and historical voyages. The stories themselves are summarized as follows;
The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing, where a young lawyer makes a life-changing 1849 voyage to a Pacific island where slavery holds sway;
Letters From Zedelghem, set in 1936, has a gifted young composer agreeing to work as amanuensis to a genius Scotland-based composer;
Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery, takes place in 1973 and features a young journalist trying to uncover a shady nuclear power scheme;
The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish, 2012 England where a lucky publicist must escape from money issues that lead him to his controlled confinement;
An Orison of Sonmi-451, is a science-fiction tale set in 2144 Neo-Seoul, features a fabricant/android who beings to question her existence.
Sloosha’s Crossin’ An’ Ev’rythin’ After, is set in a 24th century after the big fall and has the future of mankind struggling to survive in this new world.
Needless to say there needed to be a lot ingenuity to make these stories meld together. Not only is it difficult to follow six different narratives, but would be extremely challenging to cast all the actors needed for all the stories. The Wachowski’s and Tykwer found their solution by casting their small pool of actors in parts in the stories. While it could be easy to confuse the stories and keep track of when that actor is play good, evil, or perhaps even a different sex; by making the actors play different parts in the stories it brings home that each of these tales is connected by a greater meaning.
When actors are asked to play so many parts there’s going to be some segments or performances that play better than others. Tom Hanks has his most vital role in Sloosha’s Crossin’ An’ Ev’rythin’ After which is reminiscent of his character in Cast Away, but also has him speaking another language for the part. The language is tremendously difficult to read in the novel and this particular story benefited the most from the film adaptation. One of the more exciting and easier to follow stories Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery features Halle Berry’s best role in the film as a young journalist. It is a simple by the numbers mystery, but it might also be one of the most compelling stories. While there are a lot of other actors that shine in various segments, Hugo Weaving seems to love playing the villain. While his performance in An Orison of Sonmi-451 seems to have completely channeled Agent Smith from The Matrix, its his performance in The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish as devilish nurse that is his most memorable.
Even if the weaving of stories loses possible admirers of Cloud Atlas, there’s no denying its fantastic musical score or its collection of costumes. The highlight for the score of course is the Cloud Atlas Sextet written in the film by the young composer in Letters From Zedelghem. Not only is it vital in its own story but when the revelations are being made during the finale of each story the score brings everything together. Of course following such different genre’s there’s a large collection of costumes that needed to be created while are some are simple red cloaks like the ones seen in An Orison of Sonmi-451, the outfits worn in the period piece The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing are of special note.
Cloud Atlas has no business being as good as it is. There’s too many narratives, way too many characters to remember, some of the performances feel like they have come straight out of a local theater production. While all those arguments are valid, Cloud Atlas has a vitally important message to share. On paper in seems as if these stories could never meet or have a connection, but Cloud Atlas is more than the conclusion of each story. It’s about the relationship between people and the endless struggle between different races and cultures. A spectacular achievement in storytelling, Cloud Atlas is one of this years most intriguing and important films.