Cloud Atlas

WRITTEN BY: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
DIRECTED BY: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
STARRING: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Susan Sarandon
RATING: 3.5 stars

I didn't really know what to expect from Cloud Atlas and three hours later when it finished, I still wasn't sure how I felt about it. But something about the film lingered in my mind and I kept thinking about it afterwards. It's the kind of film you would have to watch a second time to fully grasp it. There's no doubt its a “thinking” film, so don't go into the cinema believing you can have a snooze in the middle and not miss anything. The film is ambitious in its style, story and message.

Cloud Atlas is based on the novel by David Mitchell and involves six loosely interconnected stories that span about 500 years including: a Pacific Ocean voyage with a stowaway slave; letters from a composer to his lover; a mysterious murder at a nuclear power plant; a publisher being tricked into living in a nursing home; a clone trying to find freedom in futuristic Korea; and a tribe living in post-apocalyptic Hawaii. The stories, which vary in genre, are weaved together under the notion that we are all connected. Perhaps the point is forced on the audience a little too much, but it is a good moral to the story, nonetheless.

The film also features its principal cast playing roles in each story and representing different ages, genders and races. In fact, the most fun with this film comes in trying to spot the actors under all the make-up and costumes. Don't cheat by looking it up; you'll only ruin it for yourself. Despite having three directors, the flow of the storytelling actually gelled quite well too. At first it is jarring, but once you understand the various story lines it is fun to watch. Some stories begin to build into a climax before they switch to another story that loosely connects to it. It's very well edited. There is also a good blend of drama, thrills, comedy and action, which almost makes you feel like you're watching several films at once.

A strong cast has been assembled to portray the various characters and they largely do a good job, especially Hugo Weaving and Hugh Grant who play villains in every story. I was also impressed by Jim Sturgess and Jim Broadbent who showed great range. Tom Hanks and Halle Berry may have the top billing, but they were overshadowed by their fellow cast mates.

How Cloud Atlas was overlooked for Oscar nominations in editing and make-up, I'll never understand. It is a beautiful, thought-provoking film that will stay with you for a long time.