Tom Tykwer and Andy & Lana Wachowski have adapted a piece of fiction that most considered unfilmable. Cloud Atlas is a massive-scaled story, detailing life, death, love, faith and many more intricate themes spread out across both time and space and quite frankly it’s one of the most moving films ever made. Cloud Atlas is the most daring and experimental film from an editing and storytelling standpoint to see a wide release in 2012 and it’s also a film that pushes the medium beyond its limits. It’s not without its flaws, but with repeat viewings it becomes something special that both entertains and challenges you as an audience member.
To simply describe the plot of Cloud Atlas would be criminal. It would be to rob the viewer of the free-flowing nature of the entire story, which is deeply-rooted and highly intricate. Cloud Atlas spans over six different stories, which take place in various times and locations. Each story deals with its own material, but in the end they all tie together to share similar themes.
Each decision made ties heavily into the past, present and future. Every single cause has an eventual effect. One minor event will go onto change the outcome of the entire world. This all plays into Cloud Atlas heavily as the film eventually reveals its gigantic scope and inter-connective tissue that underlines each and every story with the tiniest of details.
Rippling effects that deal with birth, death, love, past, present and future. Everything is connected, yet everything is unique and individual. It’s a bold statement to make and it’s told with such a grand eye by The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer.
The Wachowskis are no strangers to science fiction that isn’t afraid to challenge its viewers. Their known mostly for the Matrix trilogy, which sort of reinvented the way action films were shot in the late 90s and now they’re back, working with Tom Tykwer, on a film that yet again changes the way we view and understand the particular art form.
Cloud Atlas isn’t a movie as much as it is an experience. It bravely goes where most films do not even dare to explore, which is a place where things happen, but don’t necessarily spell out their direct purpose or tie-in with other events happening in the film. It puts an enormous amount of trust in the viewer and by doing so it unhinges itself from tradition.
The experiments don’t just end with the storytelling or even the editing. The crew attempts to connect things even more by giving each actor and actress at least four or five roles in the film, with some even changing their sex and ethnicity. This is where the film lost some viewers, because of its slightly obvious make-up and costume design, but I believe that these were intentional choices that helped pound in the theme of connectivity throughout each and every story.
Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Ben Whishaw and Jim Sturgess give multiple strong performances. It’s really hard to pinpoint a favorite performer or character in a film like this, because there are so many. Not one member of the crew holds the film back or makes any act weaker than the last. One dud performance could have tipped the scale in the wrong direction, but thankfully The Wachowskis and Tykwer cast with dynamic range.
Cloud Atlas is a film unlike anything before it. It might lose some viewers due to its experimental editing or constant rotation of actors playing different roles and that’s fine, because it certainly isn’t something you can just sit down and turn the lights off and enjoy. It’s a film that respects the viewer’s intelligence and by doing so reveals something that requires a little more focus and attention. It’s a challenging viewing in the sense that it doesn’t spell out its intentions and instead rests on ambitious ideas and notions that don’t always pan out.
There are rough edges in the film and I’m sure fans of the book might have a bone or two to pick, but the good far outweighs the bad and multiple viewings only helps the film stick with you even longer. It’s entertaining and bold and never afraid to engage all of your senses and emotions.
Cloud Atlas is a modern masterpiece that will surely go down as one of the most innovative films of all-time. I wouldn’t be too surprised to see this one popping up on best films of all-time lists in another decade or two — It’s that good.
Warner Bros. 1080p video transfer is a warm and colorful representation of the film. This is a film that takes place across all sorts of different locations and each and every one of them is represented with fine clarity and sharp detail. The film mostly lands on the warm and bright side, with lots of striking skin tones and textures popping up with subtle, yet healthy grain. The film’s darker moments don’t suffer though, often maintaining black levels without any noticeable banding or distorting.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track captures the film’s range of sound without ever skipping a beat. Dialogue is absolutely crucial and the track’s front channels stay focused on even the subtlest of audio detail. The back channels offer support with blasting action that touches up on many high and low frequencies.
Oddly enough WB has only included a handful of short special features. Here’s a full list below:
- A Film Like No Other (HD)
- Everything Is Connected (HD)
- The Impossible Adaptation (HD)
- The Essence of Acting (HD)
- Spaceships, Slaves & Sextets (HD)
- The Bold Science Fiction of Cloud Atlas (HD)
- Eternal Recurrence: Love, Life and Longing in Cloud Atlas (HD)
- DVD Copy
- UltraViolet Digital Copy
WB’s Blu-Ray might not come loaded with a Maximum Movie Mode or hours worth of bonus material, but I’d still recommend this disc as a purchase without the slightest of hesitation. Cloud Atlas is just that good. I know people throw around the words amazing and breath-taking far too often, but Cloud Atlas really is amazing, breath-taking, ground-breaking, inspiring and just about any other word that you can think of to describe something this unique and special.
Cloud Atlas is a bold piece of science fiction that isn’t afraid to explore new methods of filmmaking from both a technical and a presentation standpoint. People will marvel at how The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer even managed to make this film coherent and engaging from a filmmaker’s point of view, while also appreciating it from an audience member’s perspective. It challenges and entertains, working both your brain and heart in perfect unison, leaving you with a feeling of awe that will stick with you for years to come.