Tom Hanks’ “Cloud Atlas” is a veritable whirlwind of clever coincidences; stories intertwine, characters appear, die and then re-appear. Everything is connected. How many movies take place in 1849, 1936, 1973, 2012, 2144 and the post-apocalyptic 24th century?
Based on the best-selling novel by the same name by David Mitchell, the film intertwines drama, mystery action and enduring love through a single storyline that unfolds over some 500 years.
Characters meet and reunite from one life to the next. The underlying revelations come in the final, and best, third of the movie when a character observes: “Do you ever consider the implications of your choices.”
The challenges posed by the movie is no doubt part of its attraction; it is an overwhelming production that at times, confuses, but ultimately all facets come together winningly.
The six stories represented in the novel are bound together, somewhat, by a musical score called “The Cloud Atlas Sextet.” The theme re-occurs throughout the movie giving it a sense of continuance.
Hanks plays six roles in the six themes, including, a scientist who questions his firms motives, a doctor who tends to make his patients ill and rob them and as a damaged but fundamentally decent goatherd, Zachary.
He’s one of a peaceful tribe that survives a planetary cataclysm that plunges most of humanity back into the Stone Age. Once you get used to their broken English you see that Hanks, much like his romp in the 2000 film “Castaway,” is terrific and empathetic.
Halle Berry bursts onto the scene as a visitor from perhaps the future, and shines in her scenes with Hanks. What an actor Hanks has developed into … his six roles here are his best… ever!
Joining them is a really exceptional cast that includes Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, James D’Arcy, Xun Zhou and Keith David, with Susan Sarandon and Hugh Grant.
Each play multiple characters within the framework and all are spot-on excellent. None is more so than Bae as the fabricant Sonmi-451 in the Neo Sou segment, circa 2144. Here, the Wachowskis (Lana and Andy) really come to the fore with their Matrix-style effects.
Their work was exemplary in the Matrix trilogy and is equally as innovative here. Somewhat reminiscent of Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner,” this particular chapter bears more than a few references to Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.
Bae (in her first English-language film) essays a genetically engineered replicant who begins to question her place in society. With the help of Commander Chang (Sturgess) they begin their escape to freedom.
The movie aspires to great heights … and, at several points, indeed hits it square on.
You’ve got to admire that dedication and perspective and in the light of all the sequels and movies that come out on a Friday and gone on Sunday, you have to give all involved major props.
The Wachowskis with Tom Tykwer have delivered an exceptional piece of moviemaking, light years ahead of most of their competition.
The editing is amazing and the music, composed in part by Tykwer is nothing short of awe-inspiring. As to the title shared by both book and movie, turns out it is this: Clouds move … Atlases don’t. A must-see, for sure.