Cloud Atlas

6 May

cloud atlas


Directors: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski

Writers: David Mitchell (novel), Lana Wachowski (written for the screen)

Stars: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving

Motion Picture Rating: R

Runtime: 172 minutes



The novel Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell sold in great numbers and was said to be impossible to film. Life of Pi by Yann Martel was the same. Now both have hit the big screen and are coming to the secondary market buoyed along by advances in computer generated imagery (CGI). Without computing power it’s hard to see how either film would get made and for Cloud Atlas the challenge also required multiple directors. The Wachowskis (Andy and Lana) worked with Tom Twyker and together they produced a big movie.

Cloud Atlas is about how our actions through time are connected so that we shape others’ lives with the decisions that we make. The themes are large and the canvas larger still. Cloud Atlas spans centuries, continents, societies and more. The main actors appear in each so that the likes of Tom Hanks gets to play a post-apocalyptic hunter gatherer, a Victorian doctor, a Scottish hotel manager and a modern day Irish author. There are six inter-weaving stories in play and the film jumps between them. Multiple directors were probably the only way to make the film.

Considering its size, Cloud Atlas is not that difficult to follow. It also moves along at a fairly decent clip and both are achievements not to be underestimated. In fact, this is a better film than I expected. It is well filmed and has high production values. The core message is less than subtle – the karmic return of good citizenry – but even that recurring theme is not exactly hammered home.

There are faults in the film that prevent it reaching greatness. The acting and the casting is patchy. Ben Wishaw and Jim Broadbent are excellent in every incarnation and their storyline – the former aiding the latter in composing music in the 1930’s – is about the best thing in the movie. Elsewhere Hanks, Halle Berry, Donna Bae and Hugo Weaving are good in some roles, but poor in others and Hugh Grant is badly miscast and downright awful in every part. Watching Hugh play a cannibal warrior in post-apocalyptic Hawaii is a horrible experience.

This is an unusual type of film and should be applauded for its ambition. It is watchable and the CGI work is stunning at times. There are flaws of course, but I was happy to go with the flow and to sit back and to mostly enjoy it. Although it is by no means a masterpiece, Cloud Atlas is better than most big budget movies and proof that unwieldy novels can be re-assembled for the screen.

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