Upon the initial viewing of Cloud Atlas, you can’t help but feel that the efforts of all those involved should be commended.

Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas

Based on the David Mitchell novel of the same name and telling multiple interloping stories stretching across from the 19th century through to the distant future, the ambition of the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer’s film is quite frankly staggering and while the film excels in it’s scope, variety and vision, it is occasionally overwhelming in it’s approach and will leave many viewers scratching their heads.

This is not necessarily a bad thing – it all depends what you’re looking for from your cinema ticket, but it’s easy to see why this film has polarised cinema goers in the US with it’s loose concepts of re-incarnation, fate and consequence. Not to mention it’s long running time.

The epic visuals are complemented by the ensemble cast that features the likes of Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Winshaw, Susan Sarandon and Hugo Weaving. Each of the actors play different roles from the different eras and with the help of some make-up, the film actually felt a bit like watching a Monty Python movie, where you find yourself trying to work out who is who.

At times it’s not as obvious as you think. At other times, despite the best efforts the attempts fall flat – Tom Hanks as a violent present-day, London based criminal was pretty unconvincing and I couldn’t work out if his accent was supposed to be Irish, cockney or South African.

It can quite often be jarring. Seeing Doona Bae playing the red headed English rose, Tilda Ewing just looked odd, as did Jim Sturgess as the Korean freedom fighter Hae-Joo Chang. Whatever artistic reasons the filmmakers may have had, it’s quite clear that in some cases the methods to fully complete this vision is not quite there yet.

Yet seeing Hugo Weaving as Nurse Noakes actually worked quite well and his performance as the mad old, power crazy bitch has certain echoes of Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. He also gives a memorable turn as “Old Georgie”, a demon like character that haunts Tom Hank’s Zachry and bares a slight resemblence to the League of Gentlemen’s Papa Lazarou.

One of the films finest qualities is the editing. During some of the set pieces, the action cuts away to scenes happening in different eras, giving the viewer the impression that the next shot will be part of that sequence, yet when it does cut to another shot it complements what is happening in previous shot despite being set in different scene. My explanation heres doesn’t really give it much justice, but it’s a clever trick and gives the proceedings a nice fluidity.

The soundtrack is also pretty striking, with certain themes written into the plot (particularly the rather touching story involving Ben Winshaw’s Robert Frobisher) that will ingrain themselves into your head after the film has finished.

As I mentioned earlier, this adaptation of Cloud Atlas is an epic undertaking and the Wachowski’s and Tom Tykwer should be commended for having such a bold ambition, especially in the face of many reluctant studios willing to part with their cash.

Whether it’s paid off is very much up for debate, but I personally believe Cloud Atlas will gain a bit of a cult following over the years.

Essentially, it’s a $102 million art house film and while the proceedings can often feel like a bit of a mess, it is a soulful, beautiful, brutal and quite often completely bonkers mess.

About The Author

Colin lives in south west London. Looks like a hobbit and has been watching films ever since he saw Return of the Jedi at the age of 3. You can follow Colin on Twitter @obicolkenobi.

  • It’s not one of those movies that you watch and it makes you sob all-over-the-place, it’s more of the kind of film that has you interested right off the start, keeps that interest, and delivers pretty well. Not perfect, but still a good way to spend 3 hours at the movies. Nice review Colin.

    • Thanks Dan.  I generally enjoyed the film as it plodded along and found myself pondering on it for the next few days, so on the whole I feel that it’s worth the price of a cinema ticket.  It’s not perfect, but then few films are.