(Sci-fi, R, 172 minutes)
Spanning from times of slavery to far into the future, “Cloud Atlas” will take viewers on a journey of love, truth, faith and justice — and make them question everything the entire time. Filmmakers Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer and Andy Wachowski are behind this adaptation based on the best-selling novel by David Mitchell. Oscar winners Tom Hanks and Halle Berry lead the ensemble cast.
In the battle of which is better — the film versus the book — the book normally wins. Due to overwhelming demand at the local libraries, I wasn’t able to read the book before watching the film, which turned out to be a good thing. I think walking into “Cloud Atlas” and having very little knowledge of it put me at an advantage. The element of surprise made this an enjoyable experience.
Susan Sarandon, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess and Hugh Grant, along with Hanks and Berry, portray a bevy of characters who transcend race, gender and humankind. Hanks goes from a bucktoothed doctor in 1849 to a blonde bespectacled scientist in 1973 to the crass, tattooed British author of “Knuckle Sandwich” in modern-day London. Berry transformed from a woman of color from the future to a Hispanic journalist to a white woman in the 1800s to another form that I won’t even mention because it’s such a shock.
All of the characters’ metamorphoses are stunning. In the opening scene, Hanks is almost unrecognizable as a withered old man. The link between many of the characters is a unique skin marking. This physical feature is one of the many elements that tie these stories together, stories that span centuries.
Another binding element is the dilemma of what is perceived as proper, natural order and the quest for truth and its consequences. It seems as if each story has some level of conspiracy, hence the concealment of the truth, and a hero.
The link between the characters and the span of centuries is not always clear. Through the nearly three-hour film, you will probably ask these questions: “What’s the point? How does all of this relate?” Just keep watching, and the revelations will stun you.
A recurring quote from the movie is, “The forces that shape life and death begin before we die and continue in death.” Reincarnation is an unspoken part of the movie, but I didn’t get the impression that it was supposed to be religious in nature. I found it to be more emotional than anything else.
There are so many stories involved in this one film but humor, love and bravery find themselves in each of them. As I have said before, science fiction is not my favorite movie genre. However, I will add “Cloud Atlas” to my exceptions to the rule.
Be sure to stock up on popcorn and soda because you will need it for this lengthy film. But it will be worth it.