Starring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent and Hugh Grant
Directed by Tom Tykwer (Perfume), Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski (The Matrix)
Rated R for violence, language, sexuality/nudity and some drug use
There are many movies out there with several interconnecting stories. Some have been excellent examples of filmmaking such as Stephen Daldry’s The Hours and Richard Curtis’s Love Actually. Then again some have been disasters, such as many of the films trying to copy these two. Cloud Atlas is different. Very different. Yes there are several stories unfolding at the same time, but the connection between them is more complicated. Based on the book by David Mitchell, Atlas attempts to show how one’s actions in the past and present can impact the future, while simultaneously telling several stories told throughout time with very loosely connected themes.
With such an ambitious film, it is hard to figure out how to tackle it. Having not read the book first, I found the best way was to try to follow the individual stories and sort it all out later. Most of the tales are very entertaining and they each encompass their own genre with very little relatable between them. I found each of the stories to be watchable although only one of them really stood out for me. The fifth story-line takes place more than a 100 years in the future in a city called Neo Seoul and follows the life of what we can assume is a cloned human, or fabricant, named Somni-451 who finds herself thrown into a rebellion. It is the only individual story that has the potential to stand up on its own, but then I don’t think that is the point.
The point of the film is to show how each person’s life has an effect on their next life and how all of these lives come together. Each actor plays multiple parts, both male and female, in this menagerie of adventures. For example, Tom Hanks goes from playing a sordid physician, to a lowly hotel manager, to a scientist willing to betray his corrupt boss, to a violent gangster, and finally to the hero of the story in the far distant future. It’s enough to keep you exhausted. But it’s also a lot of fun. Trying to keep up isn’t that difficult if you just let go and come to the realization that you might have to watch the film a time or two more to really comprehend it. At least that’s the way I felt. I left the theater wanting to watch it again, even though it is almost 3 hours long. Fortunately, the film earns its long running time as the pacing is outstanding for a project of such immensity.
What really helps the film keep things together is the passion each of the actors puts into their roles. That tells me they were having fun making the movie and that there is something to it. And while I couldn’t figure it all out with one viewing, I fully expect there to many more until I finally do.
The biggest disappointment I felt that is that I couldn’t connect with anything in particular. My mind was attached but the emotional connection I fully expected to have just wasn’t there with any of the story lines. That is a shame because I really wanted to come away with that. A-