Movie review: ‘Cloud Atlas’ soars

by Lucas Thayer

A young composer struggles to complete his magnum opus before his death. A hard-nosed journalist seeks to uncover the truth behind her source’s mysterious death. A synthetic clone yearns to see a life above ground.

These stories are connected. These stories are different. These stories are the same.

Cloud Atlas” is an absolutely stunning work of cinematic triumph, spanning several centuries and incorporating many diverse genres. Directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski (“The Matrix Trilogy,” “V for Vendetta”) and Tom Tykwer (“Run Lola Run”), “Cloud Atlas” is an adaptation of the 2004 science fiction novel of the same name written by British author David Mitchell.

“Cloud Atlas” is a treatise on the nature of the human soul told through six overlapping narratives. At first, the quick cuts between the six different narratives seem jarring and out of place. However, true comprehension of the film comes from understanding that the story is linear, not chronological. Events happen in a pseudo-logical progression, although not necessarily during the same time period.

The narrative leaps from 17th century period piece, to post-apocalyptic drama, and then back to contemporary comedy with little effort. While the movie itself is just under three hours long, there is an overall feeling of oneness that emerges from the six divergent stories. The conclusion of the movie remains extremely satisfying without sacrificing depth.

The film is visually liberating, as one might expect from the Wachowski brothers. I’m not just talking about the dystopian splendor of a futuristic Korea. Makeup and wardrobe for “Cloud Atlas” deserves some serious kudos, as many of the actors in the film portray different roles in different storylines, often going unrecognized until the very end.

Without giving too much away, one of the best moments in the movie was seeing Hugo Weaving (“The Matrix,” “V for Vendetta”) cross the gender line in his role as a Nurse Ratched-esque character.

Tom Hanks and Halle Berry both deliver formidable performances across the spectrum, and Jim Sturgess (“Across the Universe,” “21”) delivers a surprisingly compelling performance as a talented young composer. Although, to say one character excelled above any other would be a lie. With an ensemble of this caliber, it’s no surprise they cast every actor multiple times.

“Cloud Atlas” may get confusing, and while three hours might seem like a long running time for a movie with no hobbits in it, “Cloud Atlas” is definitely worth the price of admission.

“Cloud Atlas” Timeline

1859: A notary falls ill returning to England, carrying a very important contract.

1930: A penniless, deviant musician corresponds with his ex-lover while working for an aged composer.

1975: A reporter for a “soft” media magazine catches the scent of a scandal, but before she can learn anything, her source is murdered.

2012: A British publisher finds unexpected success, and unwanted attention, after one of his writers crashes a fancy party.

2144: A genetically-engineered clone recounts the story of her education in what may be her last interview.

104 years “after the fall”: A tribal man living on the Big Island of Hawaii grows suspicious of the technically advanced race who visit his village.

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