Cloud Atlas is a film I hadn’t even heard of until a few days before watching it, but there was something intriguing about it in the way it mixes six different stories, each from a different timeline, so had an air of Magnolia about it, although that one mixes nine different stories all set in the present. In each of the six timelines, there’s a character called Sixsmith, as well as there always being someone with a comet-shaped birthmark.
The film takes you through all six timelines, in order, before seemingly “pick ‘n’ mixing” between them in a way which does actually work, starting with the Pacific Islands, 1849, where Adam Ewing (Jim Sturgess) encounters a slave (David Gyasi), then to Cambridge, 1936, where musician Jim Broadbent dictates compositions to Ben Whishaw, before moving on to San Francisco, 1973 where Halle Berry plays Luisa Rey, a journalist for Spyglass magazine.
The fourth stop is London, 2012, thankfully not taking the Olympics into account, but to give us another star turn from Jim Broadbent as a publisher to Tom Hanks who threw critic Felix Finch (Alistair Petrie) off the top of a building at a party, to his death. This caused Dermot’s book to suddenly sell aplenty, but did nothing for his freedom as it put him in jail. Next stop is Neo Seoul, 2144, where fast-food restaurant Papa Song has waitress clones working 19 out of 24 hours a day and there’s an important link between Yoona-939 (Xun Zhou) and Sonmi-451 (Doona Bae). Finally, we arrive in the Hawaiian Islands, in an abstract period told to us as 106 winters after the Fall, clearly in the future, but everyone talks like they’re from the Old West. Which is very annoying and was my least favourite timeline.
Cloud Atlas shows how our lives are interconnected such that we are reincarnated in different guises at another time and place. And if you’re wondering where the title comes from, The Cloud Atlas Sextet is a symphony which turns up now and again. Yep, that’s about it.
At nearly three hours and feeling, at times, like a lot of randomness thrown together for the sake of it, I ended up enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would, getting into it more as it went on. I understand this comes from a supposedly-unfilmable novel and, as someone who never reads books and just waits for the films, it’s best just to watch Cloud Atlas and take it at face value, without trying to understand it fully.
It’s also amusing to try and spot the actor behind the make-up, and while most of the key cast play several roles, one in each period – in many cases, I can promise that you’ll never work out *all* of them in *all* of their guises (unless you look at the cast list first, of course).
There’s no getting away from the fact, however, that it is a long film and it *does* feel like three hours, but it’s never boring, nor does it feel overlong, which is a great plus after some recent films that run at length and for which there must be a great two-hour movie trying to escape. These include Django Unchained, Zero Dark Thirty, Flight and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
Running time: 172 minutes
Released: February 22nd 2013
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (Super 35)
Directors: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski
Producers: Stefan Arndt, Alex Boden, Grant Hill, Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski
Screenplay: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski (based on the novel by David Mitchell)
Music: Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek and Tom Tykwer
Tom Hanks: Dr. Henry Goose / Hotel Manager / Isaac Sachs / Dermot Hoggins / Cavendish Look-a-Like Actor / Zachry
Halle Berry: Native Woman / Jocasta Ayrs / Luisa Rey / Indian Party Guest / Ovid / Meronym
Jim Broadbent: Captain Molyneux / Vyvyan Ayrs / Timothy Cavendish / Korean Musician / Prescient 2
Hugo Weaving: Haskell Moore / Tadeusz Kesselring / Bill Smoke / Nurse Noakes / Boardman Mephi / Old Georgie
Jim Sturgess: Adam Ewing / Poor Hotel Guest / Megan’s Dad / Highlander / Hae-Joo Chang / Adam / Zachry Brother-in-Law
Doona Bae: Tilda / Megan’s Mom / Mexican Woman / Sonmi-451 / Sonmi-351 / Sonmi Prostitute
Ben Whishaw: Cabin Boy / Robert Frobisher / Store Clerk / Georgette / Tribesman
Keith David: Kupaka / Joe Napier / An-kor Apis / Prescient
James D’Arcy: Young Rufus Sixsmith / Old Rufus Sixsmith / Nurse James / Archivist
Xun Zhou: Talbot / Hotel Manager / Yoona-939 / Rose
David Gyasi: Autua / Lester Rey / Duophsyte
Susan Sarandon: Madame Horrox / Older Ursula / Yusouf Suleiman / Abbess
Hugh Grant: Rev. Giles Horrox / Hotel Heavy / Lloyd Hooks / Denholme Cavendish / Seer Rhee / Kona Chief
Alistair Petrie: Haskell Moore’s Dinner Guest 1 / Musician / Felix Finch / Lascivious Businessman
Zhu Zhu: Megan Sixsmith / 12th Star Clone
Sylvestra Le Touzel: Haskell Moore’s Dinner Guest 5 / Nurse Judd / Aide in Slaughtership
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.