Review: Cloud Atlas / Cert: 15 / Director: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski / Screenplay: Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski / Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, James D'Arcy, Xun Zhou, Keith David / UK Release Date: February 22nd
Cloud Atlas is an adaptation of David Mitchell’s novel that is as energetic as it is emotionally engaging, with the depth and breadth of the source material reflected in its magnitude and ambition. The collaborative team of directors, Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer and Andy Wachowski integrate six stories in a bold fashion with the main cast of actors appearing under different guises throughout the various strands. This is an extremely exciting, daring and sweeping undertaking that has been taken on by three capable and imaginative directors.
The narrative alternates between different genres and time periods throughout - in 1849 a man struggles on a journey across the pacific ocean amidst a world embroiled in debate about slavery; in the 1930s a composer’s apprentice aims for artistic greatness; in the 1970s a China Syndrome-like story plays out; the present day UK is channelled through disorganized publisher Timothy Canvendish in Ealing comedy style whose story is dramatized inspiring a Fabricant in the New Seoul future. The final strand is set in post-apocalyptic Hawaii which boasts a mystical zeal full of imaginatively creative beings and startling scenes. Each story is strung together by universal themes and paced well, building passion for its grand conclusion.
Just as the virtuoso in one strand of the story composes the sublime Cloud Atlas Sextet (a nostalgic and lingering tune) these directors have honed their skills to create an intricate tapestry of life looking at the grand adventure, the tying bonds of the human experience and the pursuit of love, art and freedom. Wandering through the many exquisite worlds proves to be confusing at first as all the stories and their characters are introduced but after an initial awkward getting to know you phase you can’t help but be swept up in their stories.
Each actor plays their serious roles well, with Doona Bae as Sonmi-451, parading her versatility and being brilliant as a Fabricant waitress who is persuaded to shed her shackles and life of servitude by a human. It’s only right that Hugo Weaving gets the stand out malevolent characters; with a particularly menacing Nurse Ratchet inspired performance in one strand. Tom Hanks brings his usual earnest face to the proceedings but also takes a turn as an aggressive Irish gangster which is strangely entertaining. Ben Whishaw is utterly captivating and with the love story that plays out in his strand is sure to pluck on the old heart strings. Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent and Jim Sturgess are all equally wonderful in their roles and get to shine in some funny and strange appearances. The same mistakes and understandings play out through each story with each main character connected by a shooting star tattoo to represent their shared experiences.
Ambitious, dazzling, and moving, but also silly and cheesy with a sense of humour, this is a spectacular, symphonic ride through different time periods that connects the dots in a visually resplendent and wondrous way. Rather than trying to be overly clever this is a vast film, full of emotion and romanticism, which considers and communicates the feeling that we are all connected and throughout time our lives will cross and re-cross the same paths in a melancholic, melodramatic and entertaining way. It is an amazing adventure that will be extremely enjoyable if you decide to embrace its sincerity.
Expected Rating: 8 out of 10