Written and directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski
Starring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent and Hugo Weaving
Cloud Atlas has the same effect as a messed up dream — when you’re in the dream it feels real, but once you wake up, you begin to realize it’s not normal for waitresses to walk on goldfish and live off juice boxes. Regardless, it’s hard not to like Cloud Atlas in some way, if only because it’s a hodgepodge of absolutely every movie genre ever known to man.
While a major highlight of the film is its amazing cast, it’s difficult to keep track of the different roles each actors plays. In addition to the genre mashup, it seems like the directors took six different movies, ground them together in a blender and spilled them out onto one long storyboard.
The multiple plotlines involve a sea voyage across the Pacific to California in 1850, the tragic story of a young composer in the 1930s, a journalist in the 1970s investigating nuclear power corruption, the dramatic escape of a publisher from a nursing home, a waitress clone in futuristic Korea and a primitive yet futuristic tropical land. The film follows the stories of the six characters in each time period, showing how everyone is connected regardless of the constructs of time and space.
Directors and screenwriters Andy and Lana Wachowski continue to follow the same movie formula in Cloud Atlas that they used in the first Matrix movie and V for Vendetta. This formula is a Wachowski signature and almost always results in an interesting movie experience.
The film’s beautiful effects, complex characterization, action-packed plotlines and intuitive screenwriting are all key ingredients of what should make this the movie event of the year. But even with all that, Cloud Atlas still feels different than just another blockbuster. In plodding through this 172-minute film, emotions vary from moments of pure exultation to an excruciatingly frustrating sense of confusion. The script especially embodies this feeling, with memorably strange lines like “a half finished book is a half finished love affair” and “the weak are meat and the strong do eat.”
The riveting but confusing aspects of the film extend to the absolutely shocking amount of silicon they manage to put on Tom Hanks’s face for his characters — he plays six in total — and Halle Berry cutting from her role as a journalist to an alien and back again all in a matter of minutes. The vast amount of content that’s squeezed into this film is ridiculous, and the fact that it manages to make even the slightest amount of sense is nothing short of a miracle.
Above all, Cloud Atlas is an experience. It’s a movie you need to watch because you’ll never see another one like it, creating a new genre while respecting every one it includes. Like all subtle and intelligent things, Cloud Atlas requires a little getting used to — but in the end, it’s worth it.
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