Complex epic rewards patience

CLOUD ATLAS – With Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, James D’Arcy, Zhou Xun, Keith David, Susan Sarandon en Hugh Grant. Directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer.

Cloud Atlas is an ambitious epic that attempts to simultaneously tell six stories set across hundreds of years of human history, from a voyage across the Pacific Ocean in 1849 to the remnants of humanity’s struggle for survival in the far future, after most of the earth’s population has been devastated by nuclear disaster.

One of the film’s most interesting features is that most of the actors play different characters in each of the storylines. Through extensive use of make-up and prosthetics, the cast portrays a wide array of characters, often requiring the actors to play characters of different ages, ethnicities and genders. While this could easily have been little more than a gimmick, it helps to create links and parallels between the stories and emphasises the fact that every tale deals with similar themes of hope and the desire to break free.

Critical reaction to Cloud Atlas has been mixed and it is likely that it will provoke mixed reactions from audiences as well. The non-linear storytelling takes some getting used to and can frequently be disorienting and one drawback of the film’s approach is the sense that some of the storylines are developed at the expense of others. However, Cloud Atlas still manages to reward the attentive viewer with an emotionally satisfying conclusion, even though the logical connections between the storylines may remain unclear. Cloud Atlas provides a strong argument that cinema works best as a visual language and that logic is ultimately secondary to engaging the audience’s emotions and sensations.

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