“The nature of our immortal lives,” says rebellious “fabricant” 451 (Doona Bae) in dystopian Korea, 2144, “is in proportion to our words and deeds in this life.” Doctrines of Karma and transmigration of souls from one life to another are at the heart of six intersecting stories in “Cloud Atlas.” Set in different times and places, the stories include a 1849 south seas sailing adventure, 1936 tragic British romance, 1973 corporate malfeasance drama in San Francisco, 2012 comic escape from a Scottish old-age home, 2144 underground political rebellion in New Seoul, Korea, and, “106 winters after The Fall,” in a primitive, post-apocalyptic society, a love story that plays out on Earth and a distant planet. The stories unfold, revealing connections among the characters — crimes in one life, punished in another. “Our lives are not our own,” says a New Seoul character. “We are bound to others, past and present.” In San Francisco, a nuclear physicist (Tom Hanks) writes in his journal, “The forces that make us who we are begin long before we are born and continue long after we die.”
How do the “Cloud Atlas” stories and characters connect? Is there an over-arching narrative? Will you be caught up in this defiantly different brand of movie-making? I was.
Actors in “Cloud Atlas” are like members of a skillful repertory company, each playing multiple roles. Tom Hanks, for example, plays an avaricious ship doctor, sleazy hotel manager, psychotic London East-ender skinhead, conflicted nuclear physicist, and post-apocalyptic herder of goats, among other parts. Likewise, Halle Berry plays an astonishing variety of parts, including an enslaved Maori tribeswoman, blonde German/Jewish trophy wife, elderly Korean doctor, brave investigative reporter, and ambassador from an advanced society of Prescients. Others in the excellent cast — in multiple roles — include Jim Broadbent, Jim Sturgess, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant and Hugo Weaving. Also playing important roles are Ben Wishaw, Keith David, James D’Arcy and Doona Bae. Stay for the credits to learn who played what roles.
“Cloud Atlas” tells multiple stories and deserves to be seen more than once. Directed by Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer, it’s adapted from David Mitchell’s novel and is a movie-lover’s extravaganza — everything we love about movies in one, almost three-hour film. Each story is filmed genre-specific — adventure yarn, elegant romance, action adventure, comedy-drama, sci-fi, futuristic fantasy. It’s fun to discover character and plot connections, and piece together narrative threads of crime, redemption and love that wind through the film. Rated R for violence, language, sex, nudity, drugs.
“Cloud Atlas” is the one,
Six stories into one.