Squeezing six different narratives from different years, places and times into a two-hour-and-44-minute movie may sound like a disaster waiting to happen; however, directors Tom Tykwer and Andy and Lana Wachowski seamlessly adapt David Mitchell’s 528-page science-fiction novel, “Cloud Atlas,” from the page to the silver screen.
The movie weaves together the stories of lawyer Adam Ewing (Jim Sturgess) who is traveling from the Pacific Islands in 1849, gay lovers Robert Frobisher (Ben Wishaw) and Rufus Sixsmith (James D’Arcy) in Cambridge in 1936, journalist Luisa Ray (Halle Berry) in San Francisco in 1973, publisher Timothy Cavendish (Jim Broadbent) in London in 2012, Sonmi-351 (Doona Bae) and Hae-Joo Chang (Jim Sturgess) in Neo-Seoul in 2144, and Zachry (Tom Hanks) and Meronym (Halle Berry) in 106 years after ‘The Fall.’
“Cloud Atlas” reinforces the talent and versatility of the cast of actors, costume and make-up artists. Their combined talents render actors unrecognizable as they act as supporting characters in different narratives. Actors balance playing three to seven different characters that are vastly different from lives to looks to motives. Berry and Hanks frequently switch between distinct accents as they embody people who lived in the past and present versus Zachry and Meronym from the far off distant future. Meanwhile, Broadbent stars at playing an old cranky, manipulative and domineering composer in 1936 and a comical, hair-brained publisher in 2012; the characters are polar opposites, and the nuances Broadbent brings to each character renders them completely different.
Although almost three hours is a long time to sit for a movie, the pacing of the film is excellent. While it may be confusing to watch the short sequences switch in the beginning of the movie, the scenes are engrossing. Once audience members become acquainted with the different stories and plotlines, the editing and screenplay highlights how these different stories and universes relate to each other. Like their previous canon, which includes films such as “The Matrix” trilogy and “V for Vendetta,” the Wachowski siblings force the viewer to think and question reality.
While the production of “Cloud Altas” may seem like a lofty and ambitious goal, the adage is to always reach for the stars… After all, if you miss, you’ll land among the clouds. Tykwer and the Wachowski siblings did more than land among the clouds; their cinematic achievement surpasses new heights and is certainly deserving of a star — if not the moon.
“Cloud Atlas” was written and directed by Tom Tykwer, and Andy and Lana Wachowski — based off of David Mitchell’s 2004 novel.