The film “Cloud Atlas” lives up to the interconnected storytelling opus of its literary forebear.

Cloud Atlas teams up the Wachowski siblings (Andy & Lana) with Tom Tykwer to tell another tale about overcoming oppression that puts storytelling on its head. Just as the novel Cloud Atlas tackled various genre stories to explore themes on love, oppression, free will, and destiny, so the film examines the same themes but in a filmic, not literary, context.

In the novel, the six stories that span 1,000 years are split in half, cutting off abruptly and moving onto the next; but in the film the six stories are more closely intertwined, jumping to each story after only a scene or two. While at times this frenetic editing can be frustrating, Tykwer and the Wachowskis use the jumps to show more clearly how the stories are interconnected. Certain parallels between plot points become clearer, informing those who have read David Mitchell’s novel of more minute connections that were harder to grasp from the way the novel unfolds.

The filmmakers also use a small ensemble of actors to tell the six stories, further driving home their theme that “everything is connected.” Oftentimes the viewer becomes distracted when watching scenes, trying to figure out which actor is playing that character in heavy makeup (Halle Berry is beyond recognition in her role as the off-the-grid surgeon Ovid). But recycling the actors serves a greater purpose; the actors play characters that are connected through time, embodying certain archetypes. Tom Hanks and Halle Berry are constantly being drawn to each other in each story, subconsciously trying to learn from past mistakes to reach some form of a happy ending. Using the same actors to highlight parallels in storytelling is a great example of how filmic storytelling differs from literary storytelling while still reaching the same end result.

There are so many connections throughout the film that repeat viewings will continue to amaze the viewer. Despite its length, the film is so engrossing that you’ll slowly get sucked into the worlds and not even realize how long the film really is. And with compelling performances by the entire cast (especially from Jim Sturgess, Jim Broadbent, Doona Bae, and Ben Whishaw), it is easy to sympathize with their characters and their plights. This will be a tough film bring in the box office bucks, but audiences that appreciate film will be thoroughly pleased and impressed with Cloud Atlas.


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  1. Cloud Atlas « The JK Review

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