After seeing Cloud Atlas, I completely understood why it received such mixed reviews from critics. From the moment the film opens, it is immediately apparent that it is no ordinary Hollywood story. But does the risk of “uniqueness” make or break the film? Personally, I believe it was a brilliant choice. I can definitely say audiences will leave the theater with a feeling evoked by no other movie they have ever seen. Although it must be conceded that this film requires both attention to detail and an open mind to appreciate its out-of-the-box format, it is well-worth putting in that [minimal] effort.
Trying to do a full play-by-play logical breakdown of Cloud Atlas is nearly impossible. Those who try to always seem to come to the conclusion that each story doesn’t hold much of its own value. But while it is true that some of the narratives are not as good as others, that’s really beside the point. These aren’t six separate short films; they are six interwoven arcs that cannot be told without one another. Each part of Cloud Atlas is a necessary piece to make the whole. That being said, I do think that at least two of them could stand on their own as full-length films; unfortunately, this also means that the other stories seem almost sub-par and forgettable in comparison.
The overall experience of watching Cloud Atlas is quite surreal. The audience is catapulted into future and pulled back into the past, constantly shipped from world to world in a series of visually captivating narratives. The film follows the lives of each of the characters/actors, keeping the audience in suspense as they wait to see the ultimate fates of the protagonists in each story line. The movie demands the audience’s attention almost continuously through to the finale, where your socks will promptly be knocked off as the identities of the actors are revealed in the end credits.
There are some fantastic performances by those thirteen core actors and actresses. The combination of the tremendous costuming and prosthetics and refined ability of the performers to each play between three and six characters allows the audience to track and believe each story line wholeheartedly. Be that as it may, at times I did still get lost sifting through the layers of characters (and their makeup) as I tried to follow their parallel adventures. This can probably be attributed in part to the film’s almost three hour length, which is a long time to maintain such active focus.
Still, I believe Cloud Atlas still deserves a positive review if for no other reason than that after leaving the theatre, I was completely unable to stop thinking about it. Days, even weeks later, I would laugh as I replayed some of the funnier scenes in my head, or cringe suddenly as the more nightmarish sequences flashed across my mind. I’d find myself seeking out others who’d seen it, just to see their point of view on the film. And just like with a good book, my fellow moviegoers and I were able to share with one another things we each had noticed (and, in turn, missed), just as if we had all watched a different movie.
Cloud Atlas is definitely a must-see – and maybe a must-see-again, if only to appreciate its full value.
Verdict: Movie Win