Six Plots, Three Directors, One Masterpiece

Cameron Hines

Cloud Atlas, based off of David Mitchell’s best-selling novel, arrives with a star-studded cast and an intriguing premise that keeps the viewer constantly engaged in what is transpiring as the film unfolds.

Centering on not one, but six storylines all occurring at different time-periods, the film is at its core a movie about karma. It is about how our actions, both past and present, are connected and dictate our future as individuals, and how we are bound to others throughout our many lifetimes.

It’s hard to really do the plot justice in this short review, but what I can say is that the film is constantly keeping the viewer on the edge by trying to keep up with the film.

Now you may be thinking, “I love Tom Hanks, it’s too bad he only ever plays one role in his movies.” Have no fear, because in these several storylines, the actors are reused in different roles, playing characters with different personalities, goals, and even genders.

All of the actors, in all of the many roles they play, show off an impressive range of acting. For example, Hugo Weaving goes from a slave owner to a successful concert conductor, to a female nurse—and he’s believable in all of these roles (his nurse felt like a playful version of Nurse Ratched).

This gives birth to an enormous amount of makeup, probably one of the reasons this movie was as expensive to make as it was. Some of the makeup work is brilliant, as I said to myself, “What the heck, that’s Halle Berry, how did they possibly pull that off?” Other times, the makeup just looks like a saggy face attached to the actors, the way the Rolling Stones look these days.

But the makeup isn’t the selling point of this film. The Wachowski siblings (who brought us The Matrix trilogy), and Tom Tykwer (director of Run Lola Run) have delivered this complex story with such heart and emotion. It’s unbelievable just how emotionally stirring and fragile the film seems at times, as the film constantly goes from jaw-dropping visuals to tender, sensitive scenes of Jim Broadbent reflecting on his failures in his youth.

The directing is by far the selling point of this film. The Wachowskis and Tykwer dazzlingly weave a complex narrative that could fall apart at any moment because of the sheer weight of its source material into a seamless, beautiful piece of filmmaking.

Cloud Atlas certainly isn’t for everyone, though. The sheer ambition of this movie is enough to sell it, but many may get lost in its several interconnecting plotlines going on at once and may struggle to connect the dots. However, if you have the patience and attention, this is one of the most stirring, genius movies to come out of Hollywood in recent years.