Cloud Atlas Review

From the visionaries who brought us the revolution-inspiring V For Vendetta, and the man who taught us the principles of the chaos theory in Run Lola Run, comes this new, three-hour multiple-narrative hybrid of the two concepts, combined to weave a story-line spanning hundreds of years, as a seafaring businessman’s half-finished journal ultimately inspires a series of events that culminate in the creation of a future holy doctrine that will one day save the human race.

(How’s that for an opening line?)


This film is split into six primary narratives. The first takes place in the mid-19th century atop the seven seas, as a businessman battles illness whilst trying to protect a stowaway slave hiding in his quarters. The second takes place seventy years later, as a young academic assists an old composer to create his final masterpiece. In the 1970s, a journalist uncovers a deadly corporate secret that could affect the lives of millions, whilst in present day, an elderly publisher becomes confined to an old folks home by his family. In the 22nd century, a Korean clone gets rescued by a revolution needing a voice, whilst several centuries on, two people must ascend a mountain to reach an ancient secret concealed within the ruins at the summit.

It’s no surprise then, that there is lot to process in this movie. Each narrative plays alongside the rest, with the stories being revealed in installments lasting between thirty seconds to five minutes. It operates on many levels, and will no doubt encourage academic talk for days after viewing regarding what it all means. In short though, the message is slightly diluted by the many vestiges it goes through. Run Lola Run effectively delivered exactly the same message about inter-connectivity in (quite literally) half the time.


That is not to say, however, that this is not an enjoyable movie. The cinematography is perhaps the most beautiful I have ever seen, effectively accomplishing what Zack Snyder has been trying to do for years – create a believable and brilliant vision of the past and the future. Two crews were used in the production, and this is to great effect – the scenes in the retirement home story are every bit as beautiful as those set in Neo-Seoul.

The acting is superb on every count, and the cast should be thoroughly proud of themselves for juggling so many roles. One of the best parts of the experience is right after the credits role, and you find out how many times Tom Hanks has played a woman, or Susan Sarandon a man. I assure you there’ll be parts they starred in that you completely missed, making this the ‘Kind Hearts and Coronets’ of this generation. Even Hugh Grant plays about eight different roles within the film. I’m sure some of the cast will be bagging trophies next year.

CGI is used sparingly, the script intermingles coherently, and the pacing is generally consistent throughout. The film retains your attention for the entire three hour span, with always just enough intrigue to keep you watching and guessing. Some parts didn’t go so well together – scenes with police shooting gravity guns that send people flying ninety foot into the air do not go so well alongside a group of pensioners plotting to escape from a retirement home, but overall the film works surprisingly well, and I commend the effort.


In case you haven’t caught on yet, this is a very complex film. It’s not all-action, or lovey-dovey, or a simple popcorn blockbuster. It’s something of an art house film that does a lot of things, but keeps you caring about the characters, the narratives, and the ultimate denouement. Think of it as Inception but with double the ‘layers’ – and believe me, if that film confused you, you’re going to have a hard time this time around.

But for those who stay on board, you have a gorgeous-looking and enticing story that is all parts ‘Master and Commander’, ‘The Reader’, ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest’, ‘Erin Brockovich’, ‘Minority Report’ and ‘The Last Of The Mohicans’, and to say it creates a movie of this calibre, means it deserves respect. This is an intelligent blockbuster, and best of all, Christopher Nolan had nothing to do with it for once.




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