Review: Cloud Atlas

With Cloud Atlas‘s celebrated all-star cast, is it an out and out classic? Or do multiple story lines make this a tangled mess? Lella Pelaou starts de-constructing it for us.

This is the latest effort from the people who brought you sci-fi epic The Matrix, V for Vendetta and Tom Twyker, co-director of many big projects including Paris, je t’aime.

It stars, amongst others, Tom Hanks, who if you asked would not be able to tell you the name of the character he played because there are simply too many to choose from. Not to be overlooked is the Korean superstar who truly stood out from everybody else, the wonderful Bae Doo-na who previously impressed in films such as Bong Joon-ho’s monster movie The Host. Although this film is an independent picture, don’t be fooled. It has one of the biggest budgets for an indie film of all time, which won’t come as a surprise if you’ve seen the trailer.

If this film had to be confined to a genre, it would be sci-fi, but don’t let that put you off if that’s not your thing. It has aspects of comedy with the help of goofy-faced genius Jim Broadbent, a classic star-crossed-lover tale with Jim Sturgess and a Misery-esque doctor-patient relationship with an evil Tom Hanks.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll find it very hard to keep up at the beginning of this cinematic whirlwind. As soon as you think you’ve got it down, Halle Berry is the sexy snooping journalist from the ‘70s that comes across sleazy Hugh Grant, you then get thrown a story-whopping curveball with ‘Wachowski’ written all over it. At first, this got really tiring and I felt I should be writing things down, but eventually you get the hang of the narrative. The film has an Inception-esque vibe in that the audience is absolutely clueless to what these stories have to do with each other apart from the fact that the main actors keep reappearing with different costumes.

As usual, the Wachowski’s have a lot to say about the world and they use their blockbusters to say it loudly. The issue of people versus the machine features heavily in the Wachowski’s filmography and Cloud Atlas is no different. As the film is not just one story set in one era, at times it feels a little bit pretentious, especially with their bold statements about how we’re all ‘bound to others’ and how being is only ‘being perceived’.

However, the fact that Cloud Atlas is split into six different stories and there were two separate crews does make it massively interesting. Directors Lana and Andy Wachowski created one half whilst director Tom Twyker took the lead on the other. The film is extremely aesthetically pleasing and varied because of this.

From previews and trailers, you’d probably think Cloud Atlas would be a family friendly feel-good adventure, but this is not the case. The film is gritty, outrageous at times and even obscene with its varied set of narratives and huge range of characters, some not entirely human. It does have its flaws; sometimes the constant switching between stories is exhausting and you’ll scoff at some of the flamboyant statements about life and relationships, but you’re going to walk away feeling you’ve seen something quite different.

★★★★☆

Lella Pelaou

 Cloud Atlas is out now.

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