A film like “Cloud Atlas” is a rare phenomenon in Hollywood.
Studios tend to play it safe with the projects they green-light, usually opting for something more marketable like a sequel or remake.
Because these studios are businesses, after all, it’s a huge gamble to undertake a film as nontraditional, non-generic and simply different as “Cloud Atlas” when the investment isn’t guaranteed to be returned.
In this case, the film more than deserves a return on the investment.
To spell out the entire labyrinthine plot of “Cloud Atlas” would take up this entire review, so here’s a general summary of what to expect.
The film tells six stories, spanning from a 19th century cargo ship to a modern day nursing home to the jungles of a post-apocalyptic future.
Each of the stories connects and intertwines with the others as themes of reincarnation, freedom and actions of the past carrying over into the future are explored and conveyed.
It’s the kind of complex plot that can’t be summed up into a neat little sentence, and it fits the project.
“Cloud Atlas” is a very complex movie and an ambitious one to boot.
Many have proclaimed the source novel of the same name as unfilmable.
And yet, the Wachowski’s, creators of “The Matrix,” and Tom Twyker of “Run Lola Run” have done a commendable job of crafting what is, at the least, a somewhat cohesive narrative.
The stories, while differing in setting, time and overall plot, are miraculously woven together.
Each one could theoretically be its own generic movie, but what elevates them is the myriad of ways in which they tie together.
Similar themes are carried over between the plots, such as the need to right wrongs, humanity’s resistance to oppression and how our actions affect the lives of those around us.
It’s a lot to process and think about, and you will be thinking about it for days afterward.
In addition, each actor plays multiple roles across numerous ethnicities and genders (Hugo Weaving in drag; yeah, that happens), with their characters’ souls moving on to another story.
To list all the ways in which they connect would only spoil many of the surprises, but it’s nevertheless entertaining to see.
It is also interesting to spot the different actors in their multiple roles and the makeup effects used to complete their transformations.
While it may not always be convincing, it’s still impressive.
And it’s little things like this that make “Cloud Atlas” a divisive film.
Many will view the film and come away satisfied and perplexed at the mysteries held within this beautiful masterwork.
Others will see it as a pretentious exercise in self-indulgence. Whichever camp you fall in depends entirely on you.
Regardless of how you end up feeling about the film, “Cloud Atlas” demands your attention.
It may leave you feeling lost at times, requiring multiple viewings and a lot of thinking to fully grasp it.
That is okay.
Everyone should see it, as it represents a bridge between commercial Hollywood filmmaking and impassioned artistry.
Visually arresting, impeccably and carefully crafted and miraculous in its beauty and heady themes, it’s a guarantee that you’ve never experienced anything like it before, and it’s sure to leave a long lasting impression.
Oh yeah, and I think it just happens to be the best film of the year.
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