Because the reviews of this movie I’ve heard have been pretty negative, I’ve decided to give you my opinion on Cloud Atlas. This movie has a lot of interesting parts, and so, to accurately discuss it, this review will be a bit more spoiler-rific to usual, so BE WARNED.
Cloud Atlas is a three hour movie, based on a book by David Mitchell and directed partly by the guys that did The Matrix (The Wachowskis). It is comprised of six different story lines, each set in a different time periods, ranging from 1849 to the current day, to the distant future where date keeping is no longer possible. The stories are not directly connected, however each persons hears the story of the person before them through some sort of artefact or media that they left behind, like a book, movie or set of letters, which often alters their attitudes and perceptions. The main character are also connected through the fact that they each have the same “shooting star” shaped birthmark, although on a different location on their bodies.
The main thing that causes people to have trouble understanding this movie is that these six stories aren’t told separately, or in order, but are instead intermixed. It keeps the whole movie feeling fresh, as you never stay too long with any one story, although it can take a while to come back to some of them. Sometimes, the voice-over of one scene will continue over shots from multiple time periods, trying to reflect the similarities in the situations of each character. And this, I think, was the main aim of this movie overall: to show you how the actions, struggles and mindset of one person can affect people in the future, and through them, the future itself. There’s also a strong emphasis on the constant struggle for freedom and fighting for what’s right. Some parts of the movie do get a bit preachy in this way, telling you stuff about living life as if we all constantly face life or death situations, or events that will affect the course of human history, which most people would say definitely isn’t true of their lives.
So, here’s a quick rundown of the six stories which I hope doesn’t spoil too much:
- It’s 1849, and a lawyer is deathly sick on the boat-trip home from making a slave deal for his father-in-law
- It’s 1936, and a budding composer is at risk of having his reputation ruined and his work stolen by his mentor
- It’s the 1970’s, and a female reporter risks life and limb to uncover a story about a dangerous nuclear power plant
- It’s the present day, and an aging publisher finds himself trapped against his will in an old age home
- It’s 2144, and a clone girl lets herself get dragged into the middle of a world no one’s suppose to know about
- It’s the distant future, and despite his better judgement, a man goes on a treacherous journey to repay a stranger
I mainly found the sections directed by The Wachowskis the most interesting, which were the first one, and the two in the future, although I quite liked the 70’s one too. It’s probably because I’m into sci-fi and post-apocalyptic fiction and that’s what the two future stories were. No. 5 had a complex society, made up of various groups, which were never really well flesh out, but the interest of these sorts of details kept me particularly interested in this section. There was also quite a bit of action in this world, and you could clearly see the Wachowski influence bleeding through in that.
In fact, this movie had quite a lot of violence throughout. A lot of it was very brutal, and dry, and while many people in the cinema where I saw this movie were laughing about it, I didn’t find it very funny really. There was also quite a lot of swearing and other stuff like that, which left a bad taste ion my mouth.
The only story I didn’t like was No. 2, which I felt didn’t really fit that well with the themes of the rest of the movie, and was a bit full of itself. I didn’t like No. 4 much either, and felt that it was mainly there just as comedic relief.
The other thing that a lot of people are talking about in regards to this movie is the fact that there only seems to be a dozen or so actor in it. Even though there are all these different settings and times, the same actors are reused over and over again. Although, for the most part, you hardly realise because they’re made up so heavily and convincingly that you can’t recognise them. People like Hugh Grant blended into each of their roles so well, I had no idea he had played half of the characters that he did until it was revealed at the start of the credits. Others like Tom Hanks though stuck out like a sore thumb every time, and there was no way you could have missed him. At least none of them play two main characters, but some did play multiple important characters.
In the end, I don’t think this movie’s amazing, but nor do I think it’s terrible. It’s a solid thinker of a movie, for people who are willing to watch something that may not be straight forward, but isn’t convoluted either. There are a fair number of scenes and themes in here that’ll make you squirm, and I did as I averted my eyes at times, but if you can look past that, there may even me a message here for you. At the very least, it’s way to burn up three hours, and with a runtime like that, it’s more bang for your buck than most movies these days.
So, have you seen Cloud Atlas? Or maybe you’ve read the book? What did you think of either? Did it live up to your expectations? Have I said anything you disagree with? If you want, you can tell me & everyone else who passes through here what you think in the comment below.
- Cloud Atlas is like cinematic channel-hopping (metro.co.uk)
- Cloud Atlas: how Hollywood failed to put it on the map (guardian.co.uk)
- Ambitious ‘Cloud Atlas’ falls just short (breakingnews.ie)
- Cloud Atlas (viewfromthebackrow.wordpress.com)
- Cloud Atlas: Future Cult Classic? (reeldramaqueen.wordpress.com)