Directed by: Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, Lilly Wachowski
Written by: Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, Lilly Wachowski
Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess
Some stories belong to the medium they originated in, which makes the task of adapting it to something else incredibly challenging. Cloud Atlas on the surface appears to be one of those stories, where it has so much to get through within the length of a feature film. A nearly impossible feat turns into another brilliant stroke by a pair of tremendous filmmakers, as they bring this grand all-encompassing story to life.
Encompassing six different storylines, each squared away with its own narrative and developed connectivity with the others, everything begins with Adam Ewing (Jim Sturgess). From there several characters have their own experiences in their unique environments, as they confront their connectivity and the enemies within those spaces.
The experience of watching Cloud Atlas will forever remain unique because of the pure ambition laid out in the making of this story. Taken from a novel of the same name, the presentation of this feature allows something so boisterous to feel personal in a symbolic manner. It becomes unforgettable because of the task at hand and the sensational accomplishment by the Wachowskis. Even if their works do not always vibe with the taste of the common culture, they remain two filmmakers who should always be bankrolled in Hollywood because they never go with what may be easy to make. They take larger than life stories and put them on screen in such a brilliant manner, and Cloud Atlas is certainly no different.
The six different storylines take place across various times in the history of the world, with the earliest one occurring in 1849 and the most futuristic one being in 2321. By jumping between all of these different storylines, we see similar stories taking place along with the same actors portraying different characters. These storylines vary in the type of world we’re seeing like when boats used to dominate in transportation and then Neo Seoul in 2144, where it shows a future far ahead in our existence. It adds a freshness to each story but the stroke genius lies in the casting.
Certainly, there are some problematic aspects of the casting and how maybe the core actors should not have been in every single story, but having the same faces in different environments creates the level of connectivity this story strives for. With the large century-wide connections the stories have to one another, it could easily be lost when there are far too many characters to keep track of and how they all relate to each other. Having the same actors across the different timelines achieves this idea in an exemplary manner where you see Tom Hanks portraying a doctor, a hotel manager, an actor, and a variety of other people. The other appealing aspect of the story and how it utilizes its actors come in the inconsistency of their roles throughout the different stories. Just because an actor portrays a protagonist in one story will not stop them from being the antagonist in another.
Along with Tom Hanks, the core cast includes Halle Berry, Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, Jim Broadbent, Doona Bae, Hugh Grant, Hugo Weaving, Zhou Xun, and many others. Some exist in more storylines than others, but they all play a major part in the telling of the story. While it may be difficult to point out who specifically stole the show out of this tremendous group of actors, I truly loved the work Hugh Grant did within the different characters he portrayed. He successfully managed to jump around to use his charm in some stories and also become an absolute menace you would not want to mess with.
At the center of this narrative is the title, which becomes an integral part of each story and it becomes the key to show how they each connect to one another. It becomes the source of chaos but also a beacon of hope or discovery for some of the characters. It beautifully weaves its way throughout each storyline much like the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The mysterious nature of it becomes a confounding journey for the characters to discover.
The craft element of this story speaks for itself with the incredible makeup work, which helps these actors portray distinctly different looking characters. The set design in order to create this wide array of locations beautifully transports us to each time period and creates an engrossing experience with the help of the excellent score by Johnny Klimek, Reinhold Heil, and Tom Tykwer. The symphonic score creates intrigue in the story and beautifully builds up the incredibly tense moments happening in each time period.
Finally coming around to Cloud Atlas proved to be quite the treat and one that left me dumbfounded by its beauty and elegance. The Wachowskis never disappoint me, as they show similar ambition to their most famous work, The Matrix in bringing forward something that seems impossible to do in the medium of film. Even with their slip-ups, I always appreciate their approach to telling a story with the most flair possible, and their creation of the visual splendor within Cloud Atlas allowed them to flex their visionary muscles once again.