As always, Spoiler Alert
How one earth did I not know that Cloud Atlas is by the Wachowskis?
To be fair, I’m not much of a ‘follower’ type of fan, so even though The Matrix films are among my favourites of all time, I’d never actively checked out the Wachowskis’ catalogue. It wasn’t until well into the 2000s that I learned Bound is theirs, and I only found out they did Cloud Atlas while writing my review of that movie earlier this year.
Ron stocks up on ‘cheap bin’ movies from time to time, which is how Cloud Atlas made it into the collection. As we worked our way through the pile of DVDs he’d brought home, he ended up watching it when I was out one day. I came home when it was near the end, and when I asked him how it was, he gave a sort of lukewarm, “All right,” response.
That, coupled with the fact that it stars Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, two actors who aren’t much of a draw for me, meant it got relegated to the shelf and I forgot all about it for a long time.
If I’d known Hugo Weaving was in it, things would have gone very, very differently. And I would’ve seen this wonderful film years earlier than I did.
The main thing, though, is that now I have. And I loved it.
Cloud Atlas is based on a book by David Mitchell – which, after watching the movie has landed firmly on my to-read list – that was considered ‘impossible’ to film. It follows six separate stories that take place in six different times, past, present, and future. (With a note that the ‘present’ story takes place in 2012, the year the film was released.) Its overarching theme is reincarnation, exploring the way the same souls connect and reconnect from life to life.
The actors play multiple roles, as many as six (one per story), sometimes as a main character, sometimes only onscreen for a few seconds in a particular timeline, sometimes flipping gender or sexuality or race, sometimes so heavily made up as to be unrecognizable. The cast is incredible, including, along with Hanks, Berry, and Weaving, Hugh Grant, Jim Sturgess, Ben Wishaw, Jim Broadbent, Doona Bae, Susan Sarandon, and Keith David. It’s fascinating to watch their differing portrayals from character to character, to see some of them in roles one wouldn’t expect – Hugh Grant as a barbarian, anyone? – and to realize while watching the credits just how many of their roles you missed on first viewing.
And it is gorgeous – one of the most visually and auditorily stunning films I’ve ever experienced. (Because you don’t watch Cloud Atlas. You experience it.) The Cloud Atlas Sextet, which was composed by the film’s director, is simply beautiful, and the way it weaves its way through the separate tales lends them an extra poignancy.
I’m gushing, I know, but I think this is a movie worth gushing about. With characters I found myself caring deeply about, it elicits all the feels, while keeping the multiple storylines straight kept me intellectually engaged – so engaged that I didn’t even notice the nearly three-hour run time. When the end credits rolled, I was sad it was over, but also mentally exhausted and fulfilled.
Cloud Atlas is not a movie to be watched with one’s brain in neutral. I’ve heard that many people complain it’s confusing and, with the disjointed narrative structure, I can understand why. I’ve also heard that those who stick it out and then watch it again enjoy it far more the second time around.
I’m not sure it’s possible for me to enjoy it any more than I did on first viewing, but I’m sure I’ll find out. Because I have every intention of watching it a second time. And then a third, and a fourth, and … who knows where it will end?
If we accept the theme of the film as true, then never.
To see other posts in my venture to watch my movie collection in alphabetical(ish) order, click here.