Cloud Atlas (2012)
Film review #580
Directors: Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, Lily Wachowski
SYNOPSIS: The interconnected lives of strangers intersect across multiple lives over the course of 500 years…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Cloud Atlas is a 2012 sci-fi epic film based on the novel of the same name. It’s difficult to give a summary of the plot because the film centres on six different settings over the course of five hundred years, with different stories in each time. The characters in each era are played by the same actors throughout, which hints at the idea of reincarnation, perhaps symbolised by a birthmark that many of the characters have, but this is left up to interpretation: in fact, a lot of this film is left up to interpretation. I imagine multiple viewings will reveal new things and connections which are easily missed the first time. While this can be a positive, I think the film thematically needed something more to bring things together. The film ends with a somewhat weak message that doesn’t feel like much of a payoff after sitting through nearly three hours. While it is a long runtime, I don’t think there’s any lulls in the film thanks to the constant switching between the different characters and stories, but it’s difficult to say what you’re supposed to take away from it all.
The host of different characters and time spans obviously provides plenty of variety in the film: some have stronger stories than others, and some are very predictable. The film is definitely helped by having some top acting talent, such as Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, and the massive budget this film had (one of the most expensive independent films of all time) allows for lots of different on-location shots, so at least in that respect you can get the “epic” sense of the film. This film seems to have a polarising response from people, ranging from it being a really good film, to it being one of the worst, and it is easy to see the reasons for both perspectives. The film has plenty of ambition and variety, and meanders through its different stories in such a way that they are all balanced well throughout the long runtime. However, the editing may also leave viewers feeling like they are wandering aimlessly around with no real purpose. The things which are supposed to tie the film together: the strange birthmark across generations that suggest some form of reincarnation, the writings of a philosopher oft-quoted, and such, don’t really provide any overarching themes to bring things together. If this is a film that is meant to be viewed multiple times, then that is a problem, as I do not feel like this would be worth a re-watch for me. There’s plenty of ambition and a lot of skill in editing this all together, but the things which are supposed to tie it all together just don’t have the required impact.