Movie Review: Go See Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas, if you haven’t heard about it yet, is one of the most diverse and broad films I have ever seen. There are few movies that have moved me the way that Cloud Atlas did—from the symphonic score to the awe-inspiring cinematography and special effects, Cloud Atlas hits all the right notes and doesn’t overdo the special effects from a production standpoint. On top of the amazing production is a top-notch story that blends the cerebral with the emotional. Cloud Atlas will leave you not just thinking, but feeling.

The film is a collection of different narratives spanning several thousand years. The characters are bound together through space and time by love, tragedy, and a steadfast refusal to accept oppression. The directors accomplish this by using the same actors in most of the narratives and by using different aspects of the Cloud Atlas Sextet, which was composed by director Tom Tyker.

To say that Cloud Atlas has a musical component would be an understatement. As much of the story is told through music as it is through dialogue and special effects. Each narrative features a different portion of the sextet; the piece builds throughout the movie, climaxing just as the movie reaches its apex. The score accompanying Cloud Atlas rivals the musicality of Moulin Rouge.

And the acting on display by Halle Berry, Tom Hanks, Hugo Weaving, and Jim Broadbent will likely win awards. While the Wachowski brothers brought their outstanding stage production to the film, Tom Tykwer really knocked it out of the park in terms of plot development and making the characters real for the viewer. I laughed out loud during a scene where one of the characters, in an attempt to escape from an old-age home, shouts to the other inmates “Soylent Green is people!” only to be apprehended by the staff and dragged back inside.

What sold me on this film though, was its blending of philosophy with narrative. Stories evolved as a means of exchanging cultural knowledge between generations and peoples. Of late most of the films on display in Hollywood have been vapid, violent, or generally menial. Cloud Atlas rises above this, delivering solid acting that conveys important philosophical truths related to humanity and our place in the universe. This is encapsulated by one line that is repeated a few times throughout the movie: “Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others, past and present and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”

Cloud Atlas is a long movie, but you will absolutely not be disappointed. You may even want to return to see it again. Do yourself a favor, go watch Cloud Atlas.

by William Tatum