Adapted from the novel of the same name the creative trio transmit the unbound and wild imagination of the novel into an unparalleled meld of aesthetic and narrative contrasts that somehow, against all impulses, chemically fuse together. It’s almost impossible to attempt to succinctly contain the narrative weaved through time and space. Instead I’ll quote Russell Crowe’s Maximus in Gladiator who stood before his troops and proclaimed “What we do in life; echoes in eternity.” Cloud Atlas tracks the seismic impacts of a series of souls throughout the past, present and future – projecting them in different manifestations and irrevocable interconnectedness.
Andy & Lana Washowski and Tom Tykwer create whole detailed worlds for the different stories. No expense was spared in creating tangible spaces and different aesthetics for all of the time periods, projected or recreated. And for a piece so reliant on the performances the directors do a wonderful job of extracting the right performance tones, relevant to the contrasting stories. Whether it’s thrilling investigative journalism in the 70s, or hilarious present day retirees playing The Great Escape, or mind-bending projections into futuristic examples of the meaning of humanity; the actors are pitch perfect. The screenplay juggles the concurrent stories in the different periods of time and space so effortlessly. The editing unbelievably spins the plates, whilst keeping you invested with each segment. Despite the near three hour running time, this reviewer was yearning for more time in the universe of Cloud Atlas. And if it weren’t enough to co-write and co-direct Cloud Atlas, Tom Tykwer also collaborated on the timeless score, which manages to extract the flavour of the different stories whilst feeling like essential parts of a whole composition.
The eclectic group of pedigree character actors manage an impossible load of characterisations/mutations inhabiting their souls through the series of episodes. Whether they’re taking the reins of the episode as a lead, or appearing in a fleeting photograph adorning a wall – they’re a brave and wonderful ensemble. The stand-out performance was the ever reliable Tom Hanks on a journey wrestling with metaphysical demons; Hugh Grant showing unforseen range as a menacing cannibal; Hugo Weaving’s ability to transition from devilish demon or a Nurse Ratchet on steroids; Doona Bae’s racial shifts and sentient saviour shines; and finally Ben Whishaw’s tortured composer is positively divine, further demonstrating his star on the rise.
Cloud Atlas is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s a bold cinematic treasure from a brave collaborative filmmaking collective.
Directed by: Andy & Lana Washowski and Tom Tykwer
Written for the screen by: Andy & Lana Washowski and Tom Tykwer
Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, Keith David, James D’Arcy, Xun Zhou, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant