724 of 813 people found the following review helpful
David Mitchell is one of my absolute favorite writers, and Cloud Atlas is among my favorite novels. It was my top pick for 2004. I've previously blogged about my unusual first encounter with Mr. Mitchell while he was touring for Cloud Atlas. (Google "David Mitchell returns to San Francisco" if you're curious.) Good times!
Anyway, considering my love of the novel, you can imagine that I've been looking forward to the film with equal measures of anticipation and trepidation. You always want the film to do the source material justice, but it's rare that it actually happens. Especially when you're looking at a novel as complex as Cloud Atlas. It was said by many to be unfilmable, and if asked, I would have agreed.
And I would have been so very wrong. What Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, and Tom Tykwer have achieved is nothing short of astounding. I'll cut to the chase and tell you that I LOVED this film. It will surely be my favorite of the year.
Have you read Cloud Atlas? The novel has a very unusual structure. Mitchell's an experimental writer. The novel is composed of six linked stories taking place in six different time periods and comprised of six different literary genres. Yeah, that's not too ambitious. The novel opens with the most distant story in the past, a 19th century adventure at sea. Halfway through, the story ends abruptly, mid-sentence. Next, we're at the home of a once-eminent European composer in the early 20th century. That, too, ends abruptly, and now we're embroiled in a mystery in early 1970's San Francisco. But halfway through the tale just stops and we're on to a high comedy set near the present day. After reading half of Timothy Cavendish's ghastly ordeal, we're suddenly in the science fiction world of a futuristic and dystopian Seoul--for half a story. And finally, we're in far-distant, post-apocalyptic Hawaii, in a tale written entirely in pigeon English. And at last, the story goes all the way through to the end, after which the second half of the Seoul story commences, followed by all the others in reverse order.
The film is... totally not like that. It's structured completely differently, with quick scenes from all six stories rapidly juxtaposed against each other. There is constant shifting. It's an amazing way to tell the tale(s), but it works. It more than works. It really drives home the novel's abstract themes of connectedness. After the film, one of the things my friends and I commented upon was the staggering job of editing this film. I can't imagine what went into it, but it was masterful.
What these three writer/directors--apparently with limited input from Mr. Mitchell--did with this screenplay is extraordinary. It is brilliant. Now, it's been eight years since I read the novel, so my memory of the details is not so fresh, but by my reckoning, the screenplay was remarkably true to Mitchell. I recognized dialogue taken verbatim from the novel. Yes, there were elisions, but they were minor. The composer's daughter was removed entirely. She's a character that stands out in my mind due to a memorable later cameo in Mitchell's Black Swan Green, but you know what? She was superfluous. The film didn't need her. I'm sure there were other minor changes, but nothing at all that made me cry foul. No, as I watched the film, memories of the novel came flooding back in the most wonderful way. These filmmakers did a magnificent job of realizing the world(s) that David Mitchell had created.
The film boasts an impressive a-list cast that includes Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, and so many others. And you've never seen these actors like this. No one has. Go to IMDB and read the cast credits. They're all double, triple, quadruple, quintuple, and sextuple cast! You can't possibly catch or recognize all of their iterations. The actors change age, race, nationality, and gender across the roles. The makeup work is extraordinary, and if the film doesn't win the Oscar, there is simply no justice. Trying to spot Hugh Grant (mostly in smaller supporting roles) buried under old man or cannibal makeup is all kinds of fun, but this is far more than Hollywood stunt casting. The casting reflects the novel's themes. It gets the message across at times almost subliminally. It also gives these stars the opportunity to really flex their acting muscles. Tom Hanks brings down the house in a brief comic turn as a thuggish author. When have we seen this actor play so many different colors in a single film? It reminds viewers of just how good he is. Oh yeah, that's what those Oscars were for. The same can be said of much of the cast. I strongly encourage you to stay for the credits--at least long enough to see the photos of the actors in their many roles flash by. You will be shocked by what you missed. THAT was Halle Berry? you'll find yourself thinking.
Oh, and look for author Mitchell in a cameo as a "Union Spy." I didn't catch him, but I'll be on the lookout next time. Because I plan to see this film many, many times. There's just too much to take in. I'd venture I'll catch something new every time I see this film in years to come. Even at the lengthy running time of 2:44, I was ready to walk right back into the theater and start over from the beginning. The film held me transfixed, and I can't wait to see it again. Not to mention, I've already got a wish list in my mind of DVD extras!
I don't generally write movie reviews, but Cloud Atlas has inspired me. The ideas, the themes, the imagery of David Mitchell's wonderful and ground-breaking novel have sprung to life. It is magical. I attended an advance screening with several members of my book group the other night, and there was equal enthusiasm from those who had read the novel, and those who hadn't. Among my group, there were six thumbs way up, and one lonely dissenter--but she can write her own review. Mine is an unqualified rave. Go. See. This. Film.
393 of 455 people found the following review helpful
on November 24, 2012
Have you ever felt hammered by a movie? Has it ever taken you days, weeks,
to integrate a movie, in your head and heart? Read on ...
If you see this movie, you'll probably see why some people don't like it. In
fact you may see different reasons for different people. A great movie allows
the individual to bring their own positive interpretation. Cloud Atlas also
allows the individual to bring their own negatives.
My own personal bitterness was "How come my heros always die, but your heros
always live happily ever after?" This hit me hardest as I was walking out of
the theater, but it still galls me to think about it.
You see, its like this: Cloud Atlas goes for power and effect. If they hit
something positive in you, you rave about it. If they hit something negative,
you hurt big time. This movie isn't about entertainment, its about achieving
enough kinetic force to shake you up. Its wrenching. And some people do not
like being shaken like a rag doll. More so, because as people have said,
Cloud Atlas is unlike any other movie ever made.
In a broader sense, I think almost everyone has at least one scene where you
ask yourself "Do I really wanna sit here and watch this?" The whole diversity
thing, not just diversity of people, but diversity of fates, gets close to the
point of overload with Cloud Atlas, and anyone who feels pushed over the redline
will walk out, having better things to do.
Again, its like this: If you can hold the movie at arms length, you're ok, but
if you step inside it, then its really disturbing. And I'm not talking about
the sex and violence either. Its the ideas, plural. There are so many ideas in
this movie, at so many different levels, its like a living fractal. Not ideas
just for the sake of ideas, not ideas just to shake you up, but ideas that
speak to you as a unique individual.
For me, Cloud Atlas is the most disturbing movie since Donnie Darko, although
they are radically different movies. But then again, some of it is funny, and
parts of it are exhilarating too. It has a mix of light and dark, it isn't all
dark. And it isn't "comic relief" either. Somehow, the lighter parts of the
movie are woven directly into the fabric of the story. It works amazingly well.
In technique, Cloud Atlas takes the concept of an ensemble movie, and re-invents
the entire purpose and effect of having an ensemble. And it isn't just in how
the actors are related, and who plays what role. One of the foundations of a
conventional movie is to build an association in our minds, between 1 actor and
the 1 role they play. Cloud Atlas demolishes that foundation and replaces it
with its own unique creation. Its disorienting, to such a degree that you can't
grasp it from other people's words. You have to experience it for yourself to
appreciate the *power* of it.
Cloud Atlas is also a film that has a voice, in particular on the subject of
artificial life. This topic has been around for many decades in science fiction
books and movies. But as technology seems to get closer to actually creating
it, fiction has gotten more sophisticated in how it expresses its message about
artificial life. That message is the most disturbing part of Cloud Atlas for me.
The writers see a storm coming, a new kind of storm that no one has ever seen
I'm not talking about things like the Terminater and SkyNet. Cloud Atlas doesn't
deal with machines, it deals with souls. Sure, Cloud Atlas is fiction. But our
past is not fiction. We have an ugly history of repeating our mistakes. And some
mistakes only become fatal after they've been repeated over and over and over
Regarding the "everyone's connected" philosophy, I thought this works great
as a narrative device, without me feeling (today at least) that I personally
subscribe to that philosophy. I would hope this philosophy doesn't deter
anyone from seeing the movie, because I think they turn it into a positive
thing, even for people who don't agree with it. Its part of how the story
is built, and built very well.
Another area where Cloud Atlas pushes the envelope is in taking all the actors
and doing radical, (sometimes humorous) make-overs to fit them into a character.
This itself has offended some people, because Cloud Atlas doesn't apply any
limitations at all, and it has dozens of makeovers. This is very different than,
for instance, Looper, where the make-up and acting are all focused with
overwhelming skill into changing 1 single person into another single person,
with absolute conviction. In Cloud Atlas, the transformations are beautiful,
striking, uncanny, other-worldly. It becomes another way in which this movie
hammers at you.
If you decide, like me, that Cloud Atlas is indeed a masterpiece, you will
probably have one moment, one scene, which pushes you over the edge and into
the realization that it *is* a masterpiece. Not necessarily the most powerful
scene in the movie, but the scene where the sum of it all finally overloads
For me, that scene was where we first see Doona Bae as Tilda. I've never seen
anything like that in a movie, and it took me about 15 seconds to just begin
to parse what I was seeing. The sheer creativity, the imaginative beauty of
the character, connecting outwards into 2 hours of the vast scope of the movie,
just blew me away. Truly, a masterpiece.
581 of 689 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2012
I am a Buddhist and I went with a group of fellow Buddhists and Buddhist Monks to see this movie today.
Right off there are Buddhist messages all over the place. Sutras quoted over and over, Buddhist imagery and of course the message of rebirth and Karma.
But the problem is that unless you are a Buddhist it is very unlikely that you would pick up on all these undertones and the theme.
The general Western public has zero knowledge about Buddhism and the message will be lost on most people. This is unfortunate because there was a great opportunity here to bring this message to the foreground and introduce people to Buddhist concepts.
It's there but so very few people will ever understand what is being told here. Had they only taken a moment to maybe give people some obvious clues so that the curious could at least have some point of reference to begin asking questions, that would have been great.
But the curious are left unfulfilled and empty handed and most people will walk away thinking "WTF did I just watch?"..
That said. As for the movie itself, be prepared for a great deal of graphic violence and gore. It was awful and tragic but it was a necessary thing that needed to be shown to illustrate the cruelty and hateful nature of humans and to illustrate Dukkha (Suffering).
The six tales illustrate the six realms of suffering and Saṃsāra which is the endless cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth and how several characters attempted to escape that cycle.
I cried throughout most of the movie, at the cruelty and suffering and cheered a few parts when some of the characters stood up for themselves and did what they could to put a stop to it, to change the course of their lives. But I just don't want to say anything else because I do not want to be the one to spoil it for someone else.
Trust me on this, take a Buddhist friend with you to see this movie and ask them questions. Go to google and search for "Cloud Atlas Buddhist" and take a read through the many Buddhist forums that are discussing this movie.
Most are referring to it as a "Buddhist Fiction" or even "Buddhist Science Fiction". But whatever you do, don't just write it off as a confusing, disjointed, weird movie. Seek. As questions. Doors will be opened for you and your life can be changed by what you find.
Personally I will by buying this on Bluray when it comes out so I can have subtitles, some of it was difficult for me as I have hearing damage and some of the characters spoke with a heavy accent.
Also being able to pause and rewind (so to speak) will be handy because there are sooooo many subtle hints, visual and otherwise that I want to go back and look at. I'm also hoping they will include a commentary by the directors and what-not and interviews. I guess that's the "extras" portion of the disc.
This movie will be a topic for discussion at our Buddhist Meditation center for some time to come. I am anxious to hear our Monks interpretation and take on this movie. I suppose I will also be getting the book as I heard it's much better and even deeper than this was.
Just know this, this is a very unusual and complex movie. It's not kooky, it's got an important message but to understand the message you will have to seek out assistance from others.
"Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future."
May you be happy.
May you be well.
May you be free of suffering.
☸ ॐ ✌
58 of 72 people found the following review helpful
on November 27, 2012
I expected to like "Cloud Atlas," but I didn't think that I'd be totally blown away. It left me with that awe-inspiring, spectacular feeling I used to get when I was a kid and I came out of one of those jaw-dropping cinematic masterpieces like "2001." This is thrilling, breathtaking, original film-making, full of unexpected turns and twists, and, yes, very challenging to take in. I plan to see it again AFTER I read the novel. One can easily see why it required three directors. Oddly enough, most of the packed house I saw it with were there because "Lincoln" was sold-out, so "Cloud Atlas" was their next option. But at the end of the two hours and forty-four minutes, they gave the movie a standing ovation, stayed right through the end credits, and couldn't stop talking about it on the way out. Now THAT'S a movie!
The "Cloud Atlas" box-office take was not helped by nit-picking critics. Yes, there were a couple of things that I might have changed, but they were tiny, and can be found in any and every great film. And every artistic work is the vision of the director(s), so it's not our place to judge what they chose to do. I am positive that time will be a great friend to this movie, and it will gain more and more appreciation as the years go by. Let us remember that "Vertigo" and "2001: A Space Odyssey" were slammed by critics when they first opened, and now are revered to the heavens.
58 of 74 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2013
I saw this in theatres with three other family members and we were all crying by the end of it. I still do not understand why this fantastic, heart-wrenching, relevant film continues to garner such terrible press and boring pieces of garbage like Skyfall--seriously, two people in my movie group fell asleep during this "Home Alone" for adults, and no, neither is close to being a senior--get rave reviews!
Watching Cloud Atlas was a truly meaningful experience. One of the most common critiques I hear made about this movie is that the message was so simplistic. I agree, it is simplistic, but that doesn't make it any less profound, especially these days when you'd be hard pressed to see acts of kindness towards our fellow human beings, tolerance, or a genuine love for life. Not on the news, and those ideals certainly doesn't sell products: is that what's up with the smear campaign? The media would rather see us cheering explosions and fart jokes rather than having us feel genuinely uplifted?
Please do not let the length of Cloud Atlas scare you away. The story is mesmerizing and never lets your attention slip. A beautiful, beautiful, piece of art. I cannot say enough good things about this movie!
54 of 69 people found the following review helpful
This has got to be my favorite film of the year so far. Tom Hanks (Forest Gump, Catch me If You Can), Halle Berry (X-Men, Die Another Day), Hugo Weaving (Pricilla Queen of the Desert, The Matrix Trilogies) and Jim Broadbent (Moulin Rouge, Harry Potter) all gave tour de force performances, that, along with the film itself and the directors, I would be very surprised if not one or all of them did receive Academy Award nominations. They were that amazing!
I couldn't begin to tell you how unique and dynamic each of their performances were because they all played at least six, sometimes seven completely different characters with amazing make-up changes done by supervisor Heiki Merker (Goodbye Lenin, The Physician).
A special note goes to Japanese actress Bea Doona (The Host, Take Care Of My Cat) - she was incredibly haunting in all of the seven roles she played. Two of the roles were male! They were all completely different and masked in her various make-ups, costumes and character nuances, she is vibrant. I would nominate her for several awards.
The story is set in the past, the near past, the present, the near future and the far future. You sail aboard the classic ships of the 1800's one minute and the you are racing on the futuristic light-hover highway of the year 2144. Mixed in conspiracy, drama, greed, envy, ego and throw in a same-sex love affair, all with the intent of the message of making decisions, good or bad, in your life can and does follow you throughout time.
Three directors were needed on this film and for a very good reason. It is so complicated and detailed that it would have probably taken three more years to make if they didn't. Tom Tykwer (Perfume, The International) directed the sequences called `Letters From Zedelghem,' `Half Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery' and `The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish'. While Andy Wachowski (The Matrix Trilogies, Speed Racer) and Lana Wachowski (Speed Racer, The Matrix Trilogies) directed `The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing', ' An Orison of Sonmi -451' and `Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After'.
The music was inspiring (three composers) Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek and Tom Tykwer; the visuals were dynamic and the cinematography by Frank Greibe (Run Lola Run, Perfume) and John Toll (Braveheart, The Last Samuri) was so dynamic and awe-inspiring it was pure candy to the eye.
Writers Lana Wachowski (Speed Racer, The Matrix Trilogies), Tom Tykwer (Perfume, The International) and Andy Wachowski (The Matrix Trilogies, Speed Racer) did an amazing job of mixing SIX, yes SIX stories with the most complex and intriguing intertwining of character archetypes and drama from the original book written by David Mitchell.
This was a wonderful, mystical, magical film, filled with passion and heart and a true metaphysical and philosophical concepts of how our past affects our present and our present affects our future and how certain people, patterns, action and memories may guide our lives through good and bad times. Keep in mind all these six stories are intertwined and happening at the same time. It is a long feature, about 2 hours and 52 minutes long, yet is has amazing performances by the entire cast in each story. See the film, then come back to this review and see all the characters everyone played intertwined over the whole film below. I personally must see this at least three more times!
CAST OF CHARACTERS:
STORY ONE: `The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing': Jim Sturgess as Adam Ewing, Tom Hanks as Dr. Henry Goose, David Gyasi as Autua, Bae Doona as Tilda Ewing, Hugo Weaving as Haskell Moore, Jim Broadbent as Captain Molyneux, Hugh Grant as Reverend Gilles Horrox, Keith David as Kupaka, Susan Sarandon as Madame Horrox, Halle Berry as Native Woman and Ben Whishaw as Rafael.
STORY TWO: `Letters from Zedelghem': Ben Whishaw as Robert Frobisher, Halle Berry as Jocasta Ayrs, James D'Arcy as Rufus Sixsmith, Jim Broadbent as Vyvyan Ayrs, Tom Hanks as a Hotel Manager, Hugo Weaving as Tadeusz Kesselring and Hugh Grant as Hotel Heavy.
STORY THREE: `Half-Lives': The First Luisa Rey Mystery': Halle Berry as Luisa Rey, Tom Hanks as Issac Sachs, Hugo Weaving as Bill Smoke, Keith David as Joe Napier, David Gyasi as Lester Rey, Bae Doona as a Mexican Woman, James D'Arcy as Rufus Sixsmith, Hugh Grant as Lloyd Hooks and Ben Whishaw as Record Shop Owner.
STORY FOUR: `The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish': Jim Broadbent as Timothy Cavendish, Tom Hanks as Dermot Hoggins, Jim Sturgess as Highlander, Hugo Weaving as Nurse Noakes, Ben Whishaw as Georgette, Hugh Grant as Denholme Cavendish, Susan Sarandon as Ursula, Halle Berry as Indian Party Guest.
STORY FIVE:' An Orison of Sonmi -451': Bae Doona as Sonmi-451, Jim Sturgess as Hae-Joo Chang, Hugo Weaving as Boardman Mephi, James D'Arcy as Wing-027, Zhou Xun as Yoona-939, Halle Berry as Ovid, Jim Broadbent as a Korean Musician, Keith David as General An-Kor Apis, Hugh Grant as Seer Rhee and Tom Hanks as Cavendish Look-a-Like Actor
STORY SIX: `Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After': Tom Hanks as Zachry, Halle Berry as Meronym, Jim Sturgess as Adam/Zachry Brother in Law, Hugo Weaving as Old Georgie, Susan Sarandon as Abbess, Hugh Grant as the Kona Chief, Jim Broadbent as a Prescient and Zhou Xun as Rose.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
CLOUD ATLAS is an incredible film. Yet, overall reaction to this unique film was perplexing. It was just not marketed well and that is the only reason I see that it remind out of the psyche of the film-going public. That is a shame. Should I have turned left instead of right? And what would have happened in each case if I had? That is sort of the premise of this film. Are seemingly unrelated events connected or affected by each other? Perhaps so. Yes, perhaps. As the separate stories unwind, their integration into some sort of cohesive metaphysical time and space continuum is suggested. This is a captivating film and riveting in the way it challenges the viewer to feel, to think to imagine. It is a wondrous film.
24 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 2012
"Cloud Atlas" features a complicated plot, multiple story lines that intersect, and is epic in scope and size. This could be a joy to behold for some, or a confused mess for others and as such, audiences were unsure if "Cloud Atlas" was worth the time, money or effort to watch.
The failure of "Cloud Atlas" and its reported $100 million budget, could mean other studios to be wary of other challenging big budget sci-fi movies that, while rewarding, may be a dud at the box office. For studios who want to make money, that might mean taking less risks or hedging their bets and producing challenging movies but with much smaller budgets.
Could some of Cloud Atlas's near-three-hour running time have been cut? Probably. Might a few of the more tangential storylines been trimmed? Sure. But the filmmakers clearly approached this project with the feeling that more is more: in the same way that a single poppy, though beautiful and perfect in its own right, cannot compare to the overwhelming beauty of an entire field, the telling of the same story in six different ways amplifies its nuances. I was never bored, and for the most part I was throroughly engaged, be it in a Streets of San Francisco-style car chase and shootout, a campy Great Escape-style breakout staged by pensioners, or a futuristic nightmare where all of society willingly lives within a CGI fantasy. Themes of cannibalism (both pysical and intellectual) and corporate greed are balanced by moments of healing, generosity, and kindness.
Like the passengers on Adam Ewing's ship home, the sprawling cast of characters constantly struggles to find its footing as the deck pitches beneath them. Some do better than others, but each tale brims with hope for a kinder present and a better future. Whether you love Cloud Atlas or hate it (I suspect most viewers will land somewhere between "frustrated" and "impressed"), I think there are far worse ways to spend your three hours than considering the same.
Some will find "Cloud Atlas" mentally exhausting, slow, or just plain distracting with its use and reuse of the same actors across the centuries. Since the bulk of the cast, led by Tom Hanks and Halle Berry (featuring Hugo Weaving, Susan Sarandon, Jim Sturgess, and Jim Broadbent), appear as different characters through the span of the movie, undoubtedly, people will find themselves playing "find the celebrity". But, the film is packed with more than just great production values, character design, costumes and prosthetic make-up awesomeness. The film's underlying threads of consequence, human kindness and cruelty are timeless and speak to even larger themes about the meaning of life.
Definitely worth the price of admission, don't wait to see "Cloud Atlas" until it releases on DVD and Blu Ray. A story this large deserves to be seen on the big screen. Anyhow I hope Warner Bros. will put out a Blu-Ray release to rival Lawrence of Arabia.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2014
Some people just don't get this story and it's so frustrating because it is one of the most profound stories I've read (and movies I've seen) in a long time. It's basically about karma and reincarnation. It's about how souls travel through lifetimes that intertwine and affect each other throughout history. About how the same dynamics and issues come up lifetime after lifetime, and how we must learn how to overcome them. It's also about the concept of freedom and slavory (in it's many different forms), and how the soul can be trapped by limitations and various forms of exchange encroaching upon one's life, and how the spirit must try and rise above such limitations and help others rise above theirs. As Somni says, "With every act of cruelty, and every kindness, we birth our future." If you like stories and movies that make you THINK, you'll enjoy this one. And as good as the movie is, the book is even better. Somni's story is much more complex and profound in the book, and there were many parts in Robert Frobisher's letters that made me laugh out loud (even in the shadow of his impending self-doom). Basically, the book is brilliant and the movie and soundtrack echo this level of quality. I highly recommend them all.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on November 13, 2012
How do you even begin to write a review for Cloud Atlas? I saw it two days ago, and woke up at 4:15 this morning, thinking about how to organize my thoughts into a coherent assessment.
I will probably fail.
If I were to attempt to sum up the movie in a single paragraph, I would say that it deals with how souls change over time. We are shown six distinct time periods. Several actors appear as six different characters across these six moments in time. Oh, the time periods all feature different genres too. I would imagine the movie is attempting to make us question the meaning of life itself, and how it might be represented on some sort of eternal scale. It's like watching the offspring of Mulholland Dr. and Inception [Blu-ray] playing on a holodeck, featuring six worlds across 500 years, using a Memento (10th Anniversary Special Edition) [Blu-ray]-style narrative.
In order to make sense of the movie and give it an accurate grade, I would have to read the book (unlikely), and watch it at least one more time (very likely when the Blu-ray is released). For now, I'll document my thoughts to see whether subsequent viewings change my opinion.
The movie is based on the book by David Mitchell, who reportedly wrote stories for the six different time periods, utilizing six different genres, and then drew them together as the story progressed. That structure reminds me of Dan Simmons' The Hyperion Cantos, although I doubt it matches Hyperion in terms of quality. I highly recommend Hyperion to anyone who appreciates Cloud Atlas. In terms of subject matter, I'm reminded of the Daggerspell (Deverry Series, Book One) series, written by Katharine Kerr. It also jumps around in time, across centuries, and uses the theme of souls being continually drawn to one another. I wonder whether Mitchell is a fan?
The six time periods used in the movie are 1849, 1936, 1973, 2012, 2144, and the twenty-fourth century.
Through these six stories, we learn that the souls of some of the characters involved also travel through time. However, they may change from male to female, and change race, or sexual orientation. Some souls are evil in every setting, while others switch from evil, or neutral, to good. I won't reveal any of that information because it's better to discover it for yourself.
The biggest problem with the movie is the way the story keeps switching from one time period to another. Instead of showing each story arc from beginning to end, we are often shown two or three minutes in one time period before jumping to another. This has the effect of making it clear that the characters (or souls) exist in several or (in some cases) all of the time periods, and that's a good thing. But it also prevented me from becoming too emotionally attached to any of the characters. I found that I didn't really care about their struggles.
The earliest story takes place on a ship (South Pacific), and moves through a hotel in the 1930s (Scotland), to San Francisco in 1973, a party set in an English hotel in the present day, before visiting the future (Neo Seoul) and far future. So you'll see two period pieces, a sequence that reminded me of The Streets of San Francisco - Season One, Vol. 1, a story set in our current time, a science fiction segment that looks like Blade Runner 30th Anniversary Collector's Edition (4-Disc Blu-ray / DVD +Book +UltraViolet Digital Copy Combo Pack),The Ultimate Matrix Collection [Blu-ray] and The Fifth Element (Remastered) [Blu-ray], and a post-apocalyptic tale set more than 300 years in the future.
Technology ranges from primitive to futuristic, with the final segment being a curious blend of both.
The strongest of the stories are the final three chronologically. In 2012, Timothy Cavendish (Jim Broadbent) is a book publisher who desperately needs money. This segment features a lot of humor and had the audience laughing throughout. The Neo Seoul story features Sonmi-451 (Doona Bae), who is aided in her quest by Hae-Joo Chang (Jim Sturgess). Here we see plenty of futuristic shots and an elaborate chase scene which would fit well in any science fiction movie. The final segment sees Zachry (Tom Hanks) meet Meronym (Halle Berry). Although the two are from vastly different backgrounds, they form a bond. It's here that the biggest struggle between good and evil takes place, and it shows how Zachry's soul evolves from what it once was.
None of the stories are straightforward. Most are not properly resolved. I think the point is not the quests themselves, but the overall passage of the souls of the recurring characters.
I'm probably not making much sense.
Cloud Atlas is something you need to experience for yourself, but only if you are the kind of person open to analysis and repeat viewings. This is not a coherent story with a linear structure. If you do decide it's for you, try to enjoy the individual scenes for what they are. If you are anything like me, you'll reflect on what you have seen over the next few days and things will start to take on some kind of meaning. It's certainly one of the most ambitious cinematic undertakings I have ever witnessed.
Overall provisional score 3.5/5