Cloud Atlas Review: Beautifully Tragic

Normally when you have a movie featuring over six different stories that are seemingly unrelated it is considered an anthology.  But those stories are usually told one at a time in full.  That is what makes Cloud Atlas such an unusual experience the stories are broken up and intermingled with each other.  These stories span across different centuries that on the surface seem completely different from each other but Cloud Atlas attempts to prove that actions and feelings transcend lifetimes.  I only know that because I read it somewhere, Cloud Atlas was way over my head.

Normally this is where I give a brief plot introduction but Cloud Atlas is so complex that there is no brief way to really sum it up.  So click here to see watch a near six minute in length trailer that at least touches on all the characters.

I will start with the positives.  Cloud Atlas visually is remarkable.  Every color is vibrant and really makes it hard to turn away even with the 172 minute runtime.  All the different settings are so detailed that you feel like whatever year, build, city, or world the Wachowski’s and TomTykwer show you is real and you are there.  To go along with the interesting futuristic setting there are some cool action sequences that should please action fans. Aside from the CGI elements they do a great job disguising the actors.  Most the actors appear in multiple stories and they do some near flawless makeup work where it is difficult to even identify some of the actors especially a lot of Hugo Weaving’s characters.  I say near flawless because some of the oriental makeup (although ten times better than what they did to Sean Connery in You Only Live Twice) comes off a bit cheesy but I am not makeup expert so for all I know that is the best there is out there.

Tom Hanks, Hugo Weaving, Ben Whishaw, and Jim Broadbent put in excellent performances as their many characters.  It is obvious how much fun Tom Hanks had playing polar opposite characters of a homicidal maniac to a devious doctor to a humbling scientist.  Hugo Weaving went as far as being a linebacker sized woman and a green imaginary goblin.  Whishaw’s characters were a little less varied still well executed.  But the most memorable to me was Jim Broadbent as Timothy Cavendish.  His story was the one I kept hoping they would cut back to next.  Cavendish’s misfortune could have easily been its own comedic film but it was needed here to lighten the heavy emotional toll the rest of Cloud Atlas puts on you.

My negatives are pretty simple.  I had a difficult time following this.  Call me dumb or too lazy to connect the dots all you want but just when I thought I had something the next scene of another story would throw me off.  I mean I connected the visual clues (like the birth mark) but had difficulty connecting the actions.  As a result Cloud Atlas loses a lot of points for me because I just could not follow it with the way it cut back and forth between stories as if they were happening simultaneously.  Each story makes sense but I got lost connecting them.  I cannot help but wonder if they had done this in the style of an anthology of the showing the individual stories in whole before showing the next instead of going back and forth.  Maybe I would have connected them better or maybe not.

Overall, Cloud Atlas is an assembly of stories that has something for everyone:  drama, romance, science fiction, fantasy, comedy and action.  Unfortunately the way they tried to show how they all connect left me confused.  As cool and funny this movie was I cannot give a good rating to a movie I do not understand.  I give Cloud Atlas a 5/10.  Maybe after three more watches my rating will go up but for now that is all I can give it.

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