The film ‘Cloud Atlas’ is based upon and carries the same title as David Mitchell’s 2004 Booker Prize shortlisted novel. It interweaves and interconnects six stories through different timelines and over a period ranging from 1849 to 2346.
I hadn’t read the book beforehand so had no idea what to expect and believe me, it isn’t anything like you’ve ever seen before. It’s an extremely long film, at 172 minutes, and for much of it you’re left wondering what is going on. Despite this, it is compelling to watch. Like a bestseller that has you hooked from page one, you can’t help but see it through to the end, intrigued to discover what happens next.
Although the structure is complex and complicated, the themes of reincarnation, karma, emancipation, freedom, interconnectivity, evolution and devolution – to name but a few – do emerge as the film gathers pace, and all the stories are nicely rounded up and resolved by the end of the film.
It’s a mixture of genres with action-packed, bloody-thirsty violence in one scene, juxtaposed by a more sedate meandering into the intricacies of composing a memorable piece of music in the next. A 1970s detective thriller runs alongside a futuristic world of disposable humans who are utilised at a fast-food outlet, in more ways than one.
The characters are reincarnated through space and time, and continually pop up in different guises and genders to fulfil their karmic destiny. Their message is always the same: that actions have consequences, be it in this life or the next. There are some amazing performances from a cast you wouldn’t necessarily expect to see all together in the same film including Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent and Hugo Weaving, to name but a few. Each actor takes on multiple roles, some of which aren’t easy to spot… it’s a little like Where’s Wally for the big screen.
I really enjoyed this film even though it does take an inordinate amount of concentration to pull all the ends together. It is cleverly scripted with a multitude of layers to convey its message much of which I have not covered in this review, or it is at risk of turning into a dissertation. No doubt I’ll watch it again because there’s too much to take in with one sitting, but watching the DVD extras helps to make sense of any unanswered questions and illustrate the subtle nuances included within its scenes.
So I recommend you watch it, but have your DVD remote handy so you can pause occasionally to exclaim WTF? before moving on. But persevere you must – it will be worth it.