This is an audacious film. You can’t use that term for many experiences on screen, and while it may seem like hyperbole, it isn’t. Cloud Atlas is both a visual and verbal puzzle and the second film in a year to be deemed to be an impossible adaptation. And yet, like Life of Pi, it works wonderfully. Also, like Life of Pi, the less you know the better, so I’ll avoid specifics.
While some aspects of the film are imperfect, and I’ll get to that, the sound and film editing are some of the most seamless and beautiful I’ve seen. That isn’t a reason I’d usually give first to see a film. However, given the challenges and needs of the story itself, these aspects are the single most important reason the movie succeeds. And they are, at times, jaw-dropping. How they were missed for an Oscar nod is disturbing.
Admittedly, the success would have been significantly less were it not for the ensemble cast as well. The majority of the names are mostly well-known individuals (Hanks, Berry, Broadbent, Weaving, Grant), with a few notable newer (if not very new) faces such as Sturgess (Upside Down), Whishaw (The Tempest, Skyfall), Bae (The Host). What the cast accomplishes is both extraordinary and, at times, disturbing and amusing all at once. This is part of the intention, flaw, and success of the film
Each of the performers takes on multiple roles by design, in service of the story. They do so whole-heartedly and with great differentiation, crossing time, race, and even gender lines. However, it is the race lines that became very distracting for me, raising the spectre of Mr. Moto. I don’t have an answer for this issue given the challenge, but it did cause some dissonance for me, despite being completely engrossed in the purpose and plot.
The vision that the Wachowskis and Tykwer collectively created is one I think will gain more respect as the years go on. It was an unprecedented collaboration and unique result that may never be equaled due to its scope if not just its material. It is an incredibly fast 3 hours, but not a 3 hours you can passively enjoy. It requires attention, in the best way. You won’t be sorry you did, but you may be sorry you missed it on a huge screen. I know I was. You will likely want to watch it again, at least once, to see all you missed. And you will leave the film feeling everything is possible and that love exists as a palpable energy. These are all aspects of a film that should be seen and I could kick myself for not getting to it sooner.