Beautifully weaving six stories together, Cloud Atlas examines how humankind is connected through past, present and future, and how one’s life can directly impact another’s life long they’ve passed.
The six stories are set throughout both time and space – an 1850s sea voyage from the South Pacific to America, 1930s pre-WWII Europe, 1975 Cold War America, modern day Great Britain, Seoul in 2144, and the post-apocalyptic world some significant time in the future. Each individual plot is directly affected by the story which chronologically occurs before theirs, demonstrating how one’s life can have a direct impact on the future long after one has died. Furthermore, the overarching theme that everything is connected throughout time is demonstrated through the actors portraying a different role in each of the six stories. Additionally, the main character of each plot is marked by having a small birthmark in the shape of a comet, physically showing reincarnation through time and space.
While the plots of the six stories drastically differ from each other, they all pull on very similar themes that examine how human nature remains constant through history. At one point in the film, Halle Berry’s 1970s character Louisa Rayes poses the question: “Why do we keep making the same mistakes?” which is a question many historians have asked over time. The answer is demonstrated though the paralleling examples of human nature: each of the plots show human kind experiencing power, suffering, greed, kindness, loyalty, and love. Cloud Atlas rightfully features love as the most predominant and powerful emotion in human existence, as the story depicts how love carries on throughout time and is never truly lost.
Each member of the star-studded cast, which features Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Jim Sturgess, Hugo Weaving, Hugh Grant, Susan Sarandon, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, Keith David, and James D’Arcy, wonderfully highlights their acting abilities in Cloud Atlas due to each actor portraying multiple – and extremely different – roles. Hanks once again proves his superb talent and it wouldn’t be surprising in the least if his work in this film was nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars next year. It also wouldn’t be surprising if Cloud Atlas won Best Makeup at the Academy Awards – the physical transformation each actor went through for their multiple roles was astonishing, as they were sometimes completely unrecognizable. The makeup was so well-done that it wasn’t until the ending credits when I learned each of the roles all of the actors played.
The film was adapted by Tom Tykwer and Andy and Lana Wachowski from British author David Mitchell’s novel of the same name – the three screenwriters also co-directed the film. I can imagine that both writing the book and adapting the film were huge feats to overcome. Mitchell interwove six stories together in a crafty way that they were all distinct plots, yet all connected, and Tykwer and the Wachoskis had to work to the same awesome accolades and high standards Mitchell’s novel already received and to intertwine the plots into a film that would keep the audience intrigued. Although the film is a little lengthy at just shy of three hours, the three screenwriters overall fantastically adapted the humankind epic for the big screen, keeping the seriousness of the story while perfectly inserting some rip-roaring comedic moments. I would be highly surprised if this screenplay adaptation wasn’t nominated for an Academy Award. If one hasn’t read the novel before viewing the film, it may take the entire first third of the story to really wrap one’s mind around the film’s structure, but is easy to follow once done so.
While the film didn’t receive a high amount of publicity, don’t let that be a reason to deter seeing the film. Cloud Atlas is an underrated masterpiece that will most likely receive multiple nominations, and probably a few wins, at the 2013 Academy Awards. The story and themes on human nature are timeless and relateable to anyone who watches the film. David Mitchell, Tom Tykwer, and Lana and Andy Wachoski created masterpieces that will carry on long after they’ve passed. Because of their wonderful creations of the novel and film respectively, their work and lives can be summarized into a statement that one of Ben Whishaw’s characters makes in the film: “My life extends far beyond the limitations of me.”
Rated: R (for violence, language, sexuality/nudity and some drug use.)
Cloud Atlas opens in theaters on October 26, 2012.