Cloud Atlas Post-Release Review Roundup Part 2

Note: this is an archived entry. Some links might not still work, but I have tried to ensure scan and video embeds are still in place. If any linked material is unavailable, please let me know and I’ll attempt to find a copy in my personal archives.

[I hope the rest will fit here… Again. I’ll try to add photos, etc later today if I still have power. But I wanted to get this massive sampling of reviews up before I lose it.]

Dave White, “With three creators working to seamlessly tell multiple stories and interpret the novel by David Mitchell in a way that makes cinematic rather than literary sense, pinning down a single precise meaning or motivation is a game you could play all day.And reading the entire film as Lana Wachowski’s transgender coming out statement is too reductive. It’s in there, of course, and not just the parts where Hugo Weaving plays the meanest female nursing home employee in the world. But that’s not all there is. There’s a lot of everything… The filmmakers have bitten off way more than even three people can chew and that unwieldy quality is also what pushes it toward exhilaration. It’s silly and tonally jarring, but silly can be endearing. It’s also moving, something sci-fi doesn’t often accomplish… Walk out after twenty minutes and you’ll shortchange yourself, missing the complete experience of a movie taking a big goofy dare. Just stay put and show some respect for its enormous, ridiculous, mystical balls. They’re huge.”

Robert Denerstein, Denerstein Unleashed: “Directed by Lana Wachowski, Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer, the movie probably shouldn’t work at all. It alternates (not always elegantly) between six stories in six different genres, involves actors playing multiple roles, tests the limits of make-up artistry and tries to wrap things up with a cosmic bang that makes room for a string of woozy ideas about reincarnation, the connectedness of all life, the elasticity of boundaries and more…. You can tell that the two Wachowskis and Tykwer are after something big, but Cloud Atlas seems to work best in small doses, as its many stories unfold…

You also can express gratitude to the movie gods that Halle Berry, in a variety of roles, seems to have subdued her instincts for overdoing things. I’m sure I’m forgetting someone, but the rest of the cast includes Susan Sarandon, James D’Arcy, Ben Whishaw, David Keith and many more actors of varying pay grades…Credit Weaving for outdoing Louise Fletcher in a Nurse Ratched-like role, part of the segment in which Broadbent’s publisher character is confined to an asylum… But there’s no denying the Wachowskis and Tykwer also whip up some magical images. If nothing else, the movie tends toward visual opulence, some of it expressed with wit.”


Trevor Link, Spectrum Culture: “Its message is simple, like a nugget of raw knowledge, but the extrapolations one may make from it are endless, and it embodies a preternatural resistance to cynicism. The performances belong to another era as well, exhibiting a pre-modernist, rather populist theatricality, suited to the film’s deeply committed romanticism, which wafts with a pleasantly old-fashioned air. Tom Hanks, one of the few Hollywood actors who can pull off this manner of utterly unpretentious showmanship, is the perfect avatar for a film that so nakedly wears its heart on its sleeve. Most daring of all, some of the cast play characters who differ in race and gender from their own, a potential obstacle for those who fail to see the filmmakers’ intent. In short, Cloud Atlas is not fashionable, but it is quite remarkable, a deeply personal independent film, made with a budget of over $100 million and the explicit intent to make a true work of art by a group of filmmakers that includes the most visible transgender director to ever make a feature film. It’s astounding that this film even exists… Cloud Atlas pivots between centuries with such agility that slivers of experience, separated by generations, criss-cross one another rapidly and spontaneously, a free play of temporal events highlighting unforeseen interconnections and generating new, multiplicative meanings at an exponential pace… The effect[of the editing and narrative cross-cutting] is thrilling and new, something perhaps never witnessed ever before in cinema on this scale, and despite the film’s significant dept to its literary origins, this is a decidedly cinematic effect: it is because we identify these individuals with their actors’ bodies first and foremost—this is true even when the characters are under makeup and prosthetics, as they frequently are—that we draw links between these characters that function quite differently than anything literature can achieve… The relationship between the varied characters each actor plays is never made clear—is it a kind of reincarnation or merely some form of synchronicity like the butterfly effect?—but Cloud Atlas is greater for leaving these interconnections mysterious, more poetic than explanatory… That all of these are equal suggests not that all actions or fates are the same but that each movement towards the humanistic ideal embodied by the film is momentous in and of itself, in whatever form it takes. Like any parable, Cloud Atlas’ core is shockingly simple, but the depth of the ethical world it constructs, connecting actions separated by decades and centuries, is nothing short of ennobling in its massive scope.”

Charlie Jane Anders, io9: “Fittingly, how you wind up feeling about Cloud Atlas depends very much on your vantage point: the individual pieces, when you pull them out separately, are sometimes quite dismal. But when you pull back and look at the movie as a whole, it’s dazzling, and ultimately pretty satisfying. It’s just one more layer of meta in a film that’s jammed full of meta: the film’s deeply flawed greatness is an extension of its themes of the whole being more than the sum of its parts. And the world being the sum of good and bad choices. In any case, this is one film you should see for yourself…With any film, there are two versions: the version you watch at the time, and the version that reconstitutes itself in your mind the next day when you’re in the shower. We tend to judge films based on the latter, hot-shower version. Sometimes it takes a few days after you see a film for an overall verdict to crystallize in your mind, with all the pieces falling into place. But Cloud Atlas seems to be a special case: I saw it days ago, and it’s still refusing to come into focus, although I feel as though I mostly liked it a lot…   I haven’t even mentioned how stylish a lot of it is. Even while you’re gawping at the weird makeup, you’re also gasping at some terrific production design and a lot of beautifully filmed action. Viewed purely as an action movie, or as a set of stories about characters who are on different journeys, Cloud Atlas is a great thrillride. And it earns a lot of goodwill for having a powerful ending, that actually makes all of its messages about the individual and society feel profound rather than trite. I walked out of this film feeling as though I’d seen a great film that included some ultra-questionable decisions, and I still feel that way…Here’s the best way to describe Cloud Atlas that I’ve come up with: it’s like one of those gourmet meals that includes really pungent French cheese and fresh goat brains and stuff. But if you can deal with some really wrong flavors, the aftertaste might actually leave you really super happy that you ate the whole thing.”

Jasper Zweibel, PolicyMic: “Cancel your plans for tonight, and go see Cloud Atlas. I’m serious. The Wachowskis (formerly brothers), have achieved absolute success in what was by far the most ambitious film I have ever seen. There are so many reasons why this movie should have been a disaster: the sprawling plot, the enormous demands on the actors and art directors, the oft intense melodrama, and the sheer length of it to boot. But it all worked. Not one of the 164 minutes of Cloud Atlas was anything less than supremely entertaining… Within each story there is action, comedy, and drama, all of which are executed to perfection. I laughed, I cried, and I was on the edge of my seat. All those cliches and more were true of me as I rode the Cloud Atlas roller-coaster. Admittedly, some of the melodrama drew chuckles from one or two audience members, but not from me. I was sold 100% throughout the film… As for the acting, it is phenomenal across the board. Cloud Atlas has a true ensemble cast, so while Tom Hanks and Halle Berry get top billing, they are no more integral to the success of the film than anyone else. Hugo Weaving, Doona Bee, Jim Sturgess, and Ben Whishaw are all sensational, and Jim Broadbent is downright hilarious in his primary role as Timothy Cavendish…  Changing an actors age convincingly is challenge enough, and gender is even tougher, but never has a film attempted to so boldly change the race of its actors. I honestly don’t know how they pulled it off, but they did, and the result is magical… There is simply no way to take in all of Lana and Andy Wachowski’s masterful filmmaking in one sitting. I cannot wait to see it again, and you shouldn’t wait to see it once. A+”

Wired has three different critics take on the film’s different components (acting, script, symbolism, etc) and all three rate it 7 or 8 out of 10; Since their format is unique and difficult to excerpt, head over to their website.

Ryan McNeil, The Matinee: “A funny thing happened on the way to writing this review; I discussed the film at length on a podcast. There, my friend Kurt bemoaned the fact that many of the lessons CLOUD ATLAS wants to teach are lessons we’ve learned all these lessons by now. I said it then, and I’ll say it now: I don’t think we have learned these lessons after all. I don’t think the whole world knows that big companies aren’t interested in protecting their employees. I don’t think the whole world knows that the ruthless will always feed on the week. And I don’t think that everyone has yet learned that their reputation is firmly in the hands of those too willing to destroy it…. I think that many either haven’t learned these lessons yet – or have conveniently forgotten them – and that’s how we find ourselves where we are. We find ourselves in that place where, to paraphrase Louisa, we make the same mistakes over and over again…  To help us understand why, CLOUD ATLAS paints on a massive canvas. It brings together its six narratives in a way that is both disjointed and yet strangely complimentary. It’s as if we are spending a restless night drifting in and out of dreams and nightmares, and we have lost sense of what is a dream and what is reality. That audacity in its storytelling leads CLOUD ATLAS to lose us for a little while towards the end of the second act. However, right around the moment when we are ready to throw up our hands in surrender, the story finds us. It takes us by the hand, and guides us the rest of the way home… Yes, we might very well find ourselves playing a part we’ve heard before. However, even though the song remains the same, it’s a song of hope…and one that we must continue to play until every last note is heard and understood.” (4 out of 4 stars)

Harry Knowles, Ain’t It Cool News: “The film, for me, dove into a realm of spirituality and soul that is non-denominational, but felt right.   A lot of couples that get married talk about that moment in which their eyes first locked.  It’s a powerful moment – even now in my memory – the greatest thing I’ve ever seen were the eyes of the woman I married.   And I knew it almost instantly.   It changed me fairly radically.   But that first moment, that electrical connection – that memory – the feeling it hits me with.   That’s explored in this film.  You find that there are people you don’t like and yet you don’t know why – you just don’t like them & worse their very existence seems to be there to drive you insane.   Why do things happen to us?  Why are there so many coincidences.   WHY is it the way it is?…CLOUD ATLAS explores the possibilities.   Explores them with three amazing filmmaking talents directing.   Tom Tykwer, Andy & Lana Wachowski.   They’ve made a mesmerizing film that as I’ve described thus far may seem like an impenetrable mess of juxtaposed existences manipulated by filmmakers to create the exact feelings that I’m going off on, but it isn’t a mess.   It isn’t impenetrable.   It isn’t boring or cold.   It isn’t being stuffed down your throat…. People use the term mind-blowing – this is what they’re talking about….Run to this.   You claim you’re tired of the same fucking shit every time you go to a theater.   Well go to this.   Then realize you’re going to buy the score – and you’re going to sit at you computer as you listen to it and tearfully explain to this dear friend, lover or associate why you must see this film with them.   This film is to be experienced with the people in life whom you enjoy your favorite conversations.   The conversations that you take to heart and that mean the world to you at 5 am on a long night.   See this with someone you love to experience new things with.   Someone that if you look at them in the movie, they’re looking at you at the exact moment you look at them with the same, “HOLY SHIT” look blazed upon their faces.This is the best thing opening today, by leaps and bounds! “

Eric Samdahl, Film Jabber: “Four years after the disaster that was Speed Racer, the Wachowskis have redeemed themselves, as Cloud Atlas is one of the better movies of 2012….Also co-directed by Tom Tykwer, Cloud Atlas is an elaborate, beautiful film that mesmerizes from start to finish. Despite featuring a complex array of stories and characters, the movie is not a mind bender. Early on, one of the characters narrates to the audience, in more eloquent words, ‘to be patient as everything will make sense soon enough.’ It does… Hanks is terrific, even when he’s hamming it up as a big city criminal with anger issues. Jim Broadbent is great as usual. Doona Bae, who plays the film’s most critical role, is stellar. Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, Keith David and James D’Arcy also turn in fine performances. Susan Sarandon is good in a limited role, and Hugh Grant is simply fun to watch (his most memorable role is as a quintessential Hugh Grant character: a jungle cannibal). I’ll even give compliments to Halle Berry, who delivers her first good performance since 2001’s Monster Ball…Some stories and characters work better than others, which is understandable given there are approximately 273 combinations… Hugo Weaving is largely wasted, reduced to forgettable villain roles… But in the scheme of a sweeping three-hour film, those issues are minor. The Wachowskis and Tykwer have pulled off what some apparently would consider the impossible, and it’s a pretty stunning result.”

Travis Keune, We Are Movie Geeks: “THE MATRIX trilogy may be their most recognizable work, but I would contend that CLOUD ATLAS is Andy and Lana Wachowski‘s most profound, accomplished film to date…  CLOUD ATLAS features a line-up of talented stars rarely seen in one film. Leading the cast are Tom Hanks and Halle Berry , whose roles form the primary storyline throughout time, but are not the sole focal point of the film. Hugh Grant delivers performances far outside his normal wheelhouse, delivering some truly unlikeable characters in addition to the enjoyably villainous characters delivered by Hugo Weaving. Weaving, who you may remember as the relentless Agent Smith from THE MATRIX, is much more accustomed to these roles, but seeing Hugh Grant take on this new type of role is refreshing, especially given how well he adapts… CLOUD ATLAS is immeasurably satisfying and uplifting, although few are likely to leave the theater having fully understood the massive scope of this enigmatic cinematic puzzle… CLOUD ATLAS can be an intimidating film to take on, but only on the surface. Once engaged, the film flows surprisingly well, leaping in time from one life to another, setting the viewer up to discover one connection after the other. The whole of the film is tied together by a number of things, one being the actors playing multiple roles…The other significant element that serves as the most intoxicating adhesive is the original score from Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek and especially Tom Tykwer for his Cloud Atlas title piece of classically-inspired music…. The viewer’s eyes and ears will relish the feast that is CLOUD ATLAS and what the viewer witnesses is likely to stay with them indefinitely, resonating with an endless amount of food for thought as connections continually get made beyond the initial viewing.” (4.5 out of 5 stars)

Volkmar Richter, The Vancouver Observer: “This is one of the most intellectually expansive films ever made for a mass audience and that may be a handicap. While it’s smart and almost academic and gets your brain working, it doesn’t  as much engage your emotions. You marvel (for almost three hours) at the grand achievement and the sheer size and complexity. You work at it like a puzzle trying to discern how the pieces go together and what they all mean… Ultimately they’re all linked by something that carries on, possibly the soul, more likely ideas. They transfer from one time to the next. There’s always somebody who’s inspired to fight for freedom. Conversely, there’s always the need to fight for it. The film gets all that across in scenes that aren’t always consistent but are beautifully designed. Transitions are often clever.” (3.5 out of 5 Stars)

Philebrity: “Somehow, with all the thematic and tone changes (Jim Broadbent‘s main story is a flat-out comedy, while Doona Bae‘s is a futuristic action-thriller that has the Wachowski stamp all over it), everything still seems to fit together pretty nicely. Perhaps that is due to the near-constant hopping across narrative lines, the general aesthetic, or the over-arching themes that run through everything. It is visually stunning, the score is fantastic, and the acting is … well … mostly-good… The whole thing is an exercise in film-watching stamina (at over 160 minutes). It’s really a marvel if you allow it to be, and for that to happen, you may have to forgive some surface issues for the sake of depth of content. But it’s worth it.”

Edward Davidson, The MacGuffin: “Featuring a cast of well-known actors playing multiple roles in six different time periods, layered under often clever make-up effects, the film is both big and intimate. For the most part it works. It might not be quite as emotionally moving as it aspires to be, but decoding the various story threads gives the audience the pleasure of filling in some of edges of the plots… What works best is the shorthand that the film is able to use throughout. For instance, when showing a future where ‘fabricants’ are manufactured as servants to service consumers they regard as holy, it’s fun for the audience to fill in the gaps in that story. You can quickly extrapolate how our society would reach a place like that. All of the story threads seem to work in this way, where we jump right into the worlds of these characters without much explanation. We don’t always need it… The gimmick of actors in multiple roles is fun. Hugo Weaving as a shamanistic kind of boogeyman in the future while also playing a female Nurse-Ratched-type character in the present as well as various other bad guys throughout is wonderful to watch. Hugh Grant appearing as a ’70s era businessman, a devilish senior citizen in the present, and a loin-clothed bloodthirsty cannibal in the future is particularly effective. The whole game of spot-the-actor that runs throughout is a clever hook. But it also reinforces the themes of interconnectedness that ties all of these tales together… There are some nitpicks. The pigeon-English slang that Hanks and Berry use in the farthest future story is sure to be eventually mocked by comedians… And while everyone will probably debate this movie endlessly, and while it does have some interestingly poignant statements to make about humanity, in the end the film may not be quite as deep as it wishes it is. Yes, love, freedom, and bravery are universally great. But I think we kind of already knew that… But the actors are having a fabulously watchable good time. Despite all the big-name talent on display, the heart of Cloud Atlas belongs to Doona Bae as the fabricant newly realizing she has a larger role to play in the world. She makes a real impression. Also, Broadbent in the senior citizen home is the most comically charming of the bunch. In fact, as high a concept and as big a production as this is, the whole affair has a large bit of theatricality to it. Since the stories are all cut up and presented out of order, you are left with a lot of individual two-person scenes that are quite compelling.”

Mic LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle: “There is something new going on in 21st century movies, a strain of films attempting to convey the entire experience of life in a single movie. Alejandro Inárritu has tried this, with lesser (“Babel”) and greater (“Biutiful”) success, and so has Terrence Malick (“The Tree of Life”). “Cloud Atlas,” more successful than most, is the biggest effort yet in this new vein – enormous in length and scope, a film whose purpose doesn’t even begin to come into focus until two hours in… “Cloud Atlas” attempts to depict endless cycles of recurrence, the moral patterns of human existence….If that sounds ambitious and challenging, it is. The filmmakers are betting on audiences being both willing to pay close attention, as underlying connections emerge, and willing to go along for a ride, without a clue as to the destination. The filmmakers are gambling, in fact, on the intelligence and patience of the sci-fi action audience. Let’s wish them luck… Still, despite some weaknesses, a sense gradually emerges in this film- not just an idea, but a strong feeling mixed with an idea – about the dance of good and evil over time. It’s a grown-up person’s vision: When you’re young, it’s possible to believe that evil can be vanquished. As you get older, you realize that evil never stops changing shapes and faces. In ‘Cloud Atlas,’ the monster can be beaten, but always comes back, but always can be beaten. There can never be a happy ending, but there can be a mature consolation that, in itself, has grandeur and is the opposite of despair…I hope ‘Cloud Atlas’ finds its audience.”

Karl Pfeifffer: “It would be wrong to say that this film is about karma or reincarnation. Those are labels, attached by cultures and adopted by societies, and so carry with them connotations and likely inaccuracies. Cloud Atlas seeks to transcend these instances, these windows of the world that we’re used to looking through in our daily lives (indeed, it’s our only view), and study something broader, if not greater… Though at times some of the voice overs and thematic lines feel forced and even obviously trite, I think that’s the risk of a movie trying to do such grand thematic play. And it’s forgivable so long as the depth backs it up. The audience after all are all watching at different levels. And sometimes just pointing out that these character’s souls stretch through the movie, while overt to some, might bring the pieces together for others….The visual components were fantastic. The acting was fantastic. The desire by Lana, Andy, and Tom Tykwer to make this book into a movie permeated the film, and to know that they did it independently, is even more of an accomplishment. Movies that take this kind of risk need to be supported. Hollywood needs to take these kinds of epic risks more often. Because we absolutely need brilliance of this measure on our screens… The actors have the challenge of playing characters of all races and genders. Asians play white characters, male plays female, white as Asian and all back again. This is the necessity demanded of this script. If you want to call it yellowface, you’ve utterly missed the point. That said, it’s not always elegant…Cloud Atlas is a massive scope of a story, and for these three to fit it in one three-hour movie experience, and as elegantly as they did, a true masterwork was accomplished here. And if you’re not left moved by the end of the movie, I hope you’re moved to think about the other impossibilities that this film has now made realistic. A ”

Flame Magazine: “Every once in a while a film comes along that changes your perception of what a motion picture can be, and makes you stop in awe and wonder.’Cloud Atlas’ is that film…. Each character’s journey is somehow a part of the other. Each character’s soul is inexplicably connected to each other throughout time. “Cloud Atlas” is a rich tapestry, so visually stunning and breathtaking. You’re drawn into this universe, more like a celebration of the human spirit, on so many levels. It’s a thriller, it’s a comedy of errors, it’s a love story, and it’s a sci-fi epic. Each actor plays at least three or more characters in any given story or scenario. Even here, the boundaries are bent… I would be surprised if there weren’t any Oscar® nominations in their future. In some cases the transformations are so subtle, you aren’t even aware of them. As the credits are presented at the end of the film and you get to see just who was who, you will be pleasantly surprised. It’s amazing to see just how talented these actors are as they embrace so many different roles.”

Anubhav DasGhupta, Bombay Nerds: “Cloud Atlas is by no means a crappy film. It’s a great one, with some great performances, brilliant cinematography, sublime makeup work, astounding visual effects, but I can see why people may hate it…. Firstly, it’s anything but conventional. You’ve got actors playing multiple roles across different time periods; women play males, males play women, white actors play asians and asians play white people. Then there’s six storylines, and the film tends to jump haphazardly from one story to another. The film gives you no time to breathe, or to go and take a leak. It demands your constant attention. Miss a single beat and you’re screwed. The weird, mumbly dialect in one of the stories doesn’t help either…Cloud Atlas cannot be reviewed. To write a review that’ll decide if people should go spend their money on it or not is an act of sin. Don’t look at the Rottentomatoes ratings, or the ridiculous yellowface accusations. Go and fucking watch this film.” [CJ– You tell ’em!]

Mark Jackson, The Epoch Times: “Cloud Atlas is a majestic tapestry depicting the interwoven skeins of human lifetimes; all the actors reappear in all the scenes. We normally can’t see dead people, but that doesn’t mean they’re not like threads disappearing below the tapestry’s surface and resurfacing elsewhere…. Across the board, this film is packed with sumptuous visual riches. It’s beautifully shot, lit, costumed, directed, and acted…. With the six quickly shifting and flipping storylines, multiple actors reincarnating in multiple roles and lifetimes, makeup that sometimes renders them unrecognizable, and various and occasionally unintelligible accents and patois, it gets a bit hectic. Add to that lots of action in the form of fast-moving futuristic gunships and explosions, slave horse-whippings, replicant euthanasia, and a fair amount of tribal bloodletting—it takes a keen intellect to sort it all out.”

David Chase, Beyond the Marquee: “Let me just say that no review will ever do this film the justice, this is a cinematic movie that MUST be watched, experienced and digested. Yes the film is close to 3 hours long, yes, there are many characters and several plot-lines, and yes you’d better pee and get your popcorn before it starts because you will not want to miss a single minute of it… Whereas in some movies an actor is made-up into a role with heavy prosthetics or wardrobe, Cloud Atlas goes to the extreme and pushes, breaks and creates new boundaries for it’s cast… Men become women, women become men, the young are aged and the aged are made into women…and it’s easy to accept. Yeah the make-up at times seems a little over-the-top, almost too defined, but then others are so well concealed that you’re scanning the credits at the end going ‘That’s who that was!?!’ One thing is for sure, the make-up is a true contender for an Academy Award and it’s evident the actors had a fun time in these varied and dynamic roles!.. I say this is an epic movie because the story-telling is big, though at times you really need to pay attention to details, and other times details are just glossed over, but the scope of the stories within the big picture are engrossing enough, but then to watch it all un-fold to see how it all connects in the end is what really is impressive.”

Jeremy Kirk, FirstShowing,net: “It’ll be difficult not to dip into hyperbole, but that’s what you get with something as ambitious as Cloud Atlas, a film that easily leads the year as most daring and bar none the most satisfying movie experience. The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer have reached into a novel best described as inscrutable – Some would aptly call it cloudy – and pulled out a visual feast every bit as much for the brain as it is the eyes. Cloud Atlas is the kind of film you need a break from, or its grand themes and colossal structure might overwhelm. But the rewards in experiencing and reflecting on it are precisely why we love films…. The characters we meet in these settings and their stories unfold quickly, Andy & Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer keeping the film’s momentum always on the go. At first, Cloud Atlas feels like a deluge, your mind working overtime to keep up with who or where or what we’re seeing. The uninitiated might throw their hands up in frustration when Doona Bae’s Sonmi-451 appears, throwing what’s previously been a period piece into the stylishly computerized world of tomorrow. But the Wachowskis and Tykwer understand their audience needs establishment, and their fast-paced introduction to these six stories right at the top of the film is a required foothold needed to let yourself sink into the overall story… Each of the stories work on their own, but they also fit into the grand scope of what could only be referred to as the design of the world perfectly. Bits of information learned in one has a hand in the events shown in another, and every action by every character ends up having a purpose, almost a guide for Event A and how it leads to Event Z. Forget the Butterfly Effect. That’s a ripple in a pond compared to the grand-scale ideas at work here… Nearly every actor in the film plays multiple roles, some switching up age, race, or even gender between parts… However, the intricate way in which every detail of this film is handled keeps the wheels on the track, and where most inexperienced or mediocre filmmakers might offer up an ugly wreck of a film, the three at work here have given us what could be viewed in years to come as a masterpiece. Hugo Weaving showing up in drag might bring up scattered unintentional laughter, but even that fits in with the story and tone at hand… Each actor takes absolute charge with each of their roles, as well, most of them quite literally disappearing in front of our eyes under heavy makeup..  [E]veryone in Cloud Atlas does a remarkable job, the chameleon aspect of much of their roles only a part of the praise…  Some film makers are just working on a grander scale than others, and while Michael Bay and James Cameron are making mindless or semi-mindless adventures that look like a billion dollars, the Wachowskis and Tykwer are reaching for something with a deeper meaning. Cloud Atlas is another experience from them that brings an audacity and visual extravagance to a beautiful, moving, and audacious story about love and the effects such works of art have for future generations. Cloud Atlas is a film intended to endure, and bravo to the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer for making it such an awesome experience. Jeremy’s Rating: 10 out of 10”

Daniel Pinto, DNA: “The best kind of science fiction film is not necessarily the one which can take you on the most imaginative ride or offer the best-looking vistas, but that which manages to be thought-provoking and sometimes, like any great work of art, a heart-wrenching reflection on the human condition… Even though the viewer is pulled and flung from one world to the next, the flow of the story, action and the suspense is well-regulated. Life, its eternal recurrence, the good and evil in human nature, the vagaries of the cosmos – merely one canvas can seldom do justice of such lofty themes. But at 172 minutes, Cloud Atlas tries to get the job done… [Hugo] Weaving, as he does so well in the Wachowskis’ Matrix trilogy, plays the antagonising forces through history. Embodying the age-old might-is-right mentality, he chews up the scenery from a slave herder to a female nurse (!) to a satanic Dr Hyde-esque vision that haunts the tormented tribesman Zachry, played by Hanks (who himself has an unsavoury past as the poisonous Dr Goose, an avaricious innkeeper and the loose cannon writer who lands editor Timothy Cavendish, played by the brilliant Broadbent, into trouble). Grant is also suitably slimy  essaying the roles of the head of the evil nuclear project, the unforgiving brother and the tattooed scavenger of the future. Berry is just about all right, mostly as the agent of good, sometimes completely hidden under prosthetics- as everyone else- when an extra in somebody else’s story. Whishaw playing the rakish but reflective musician Robert Frobisher, whose life takes a tragic turn in the film’s opening and and D’Arcy as his wistful scientist lover, lends great gravity to the film…Part special effects extravaganza, part morality tale, the massively ambitious Cloud Atlas is more than a worthwhile watch.”

Bruce Handy, Vanity Fair: “Cloud Atlas, which stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, and a bunch of other people, all playing multiple roles with the help of all kinds of age, race, and gender makeup, is one of the single most entertaining movies I have ever seen. It’s also, in an equally ambitious and crazily pulpy way, one of the silliest… I should add that, for me, ‘silly’ isn’t always a pejorative—in politics or business, yes, but not necessarily in entertainment, and certainly not in comedy (Jerry Lewis and Benny Hill notwithstanding). What’s silly about Cloud Atlas is all the crazy, dazzling effort it goes to, all the Mach-5, V-8 filmmaking talent it harnesses, to make some ultimately rather obvious points about evergreens such as love, evil, freedom, art—the highs and lows of human nature, the stuff the species is stuck with, for better or worse, profound or boring…
So please don’t be intimidated by Cloud Atlas, which was written and directed by the Wachowski siblings, Andy and Lena, who previously made the Matrix movies and Speed Racer, and Tom Tykwer, best known for Run Lola Run. Some reviews might make the new film sound like work, but it’s not—it’s fun!.. The film ends on an upbeat, even hokey note, or at least it wants you to think it does. The scenes sell themselves that way amid soaring score and twinkles in Hanks’s and Berry’s eyes, although there’s a grim irony in the ending, too, which I won’t give away and which I’m also not sure the filmmakers are aware of—well, of course they’re aware of it; I mean I’m not sure they see it as grim. Hokey-grim: another interesting fusion. Let’s discuss once you’ve seen the film… Their proximity on the release schedule, and in Oscar speculation, along with their similarly high butt-sit factor, leads me to think of Cloud Atlas as the polar opposite of The Master, in that the former wears a big heart on its sleeve while the latter, at least for me, was frustratingly opaque. But both are bravura feats of filmmaking and, however long, I was sorry to see the credits roll on both. I will pay Cloud Atlas what I think of as the ultimate compliment: I will eagerly seek out the four- or five-hour director’s-cut version, which I’m sure exists, when it arrives on DVD or shows up at Film Forum.”

[CJ: Re the film’s ending: yeah, I initially wondered the same thing, but after a second viewing, I’m more certain the filmmakers knew exactly what they were doing, and meant the superficially happy ending to have a bitter sting. I’ve often accused the Wachowskis of having an overly romantic view of the world… some comments about 2001 (one of my favorite films and theirs) at the October 6 preview screening made me think perhaps they saw only Arthur C Clarke’s “cosmic optimism” in the film, but not enough Kubrickian darkness. I even mentioned to my boyfriend that any notion 2001 is purely about the hope for human evolution or progress should be balanced by observing what the first proto-hominids in the film do the moment the symbolic black slab shows up: use their newly discovered “tools” to brain other animals, then one another. But then I noticed a subtle but direct homage to 2001 during my second viewing of Cloud Atlas: during the scene where Autua is being whipped, he’s lashed to a very black-slab-like totem, and his fellow villagers are intoning an ominous hum that sounds exactly like the one heard in 2001.

In both the novel and film versions of Cloud Atlas, the earth is in a perilous state at the end, and only a small remnant of humanity persists. Zachry has survived to old age and is telling youngsters (presumably his grandchildren) his story. His vantage point is somewhat different in the film, but in either case, he’s been forced to abandon his village and has lost much of his family and tribe. I personally found the film version cornier on the surface, but sadder beneath.  The Wachowskis based the entire premise of The Matrix trilogy on the notion that humanity had destroyed most of the earth is a blinkered, single-minded quest to destroy the Machines, who were initially only seeking fair treatment. So… I think they know what the ending of their own movie means this time too. On a dark-humored note, the film’s ending also reminded me of George Carlin’s assertion that this planet would one day “shake us off like a bad case of fleas”. Also: Monty Python’s “Galaxy Song”. ] 😉

Dr Know, Bullseye or Misfire: “I have to say everyone on board is top-notch, and even though I was able to pick many of the key players out in their various guises, there were some instances where they also slipped past. I didn’t realize I was watching the same actor in certain roles until the end credits rolled and got me up to speed. Well done… Cloud Atlas is a thriller, a love story, a sci-fi action movie, a coming-of-age story, a Greek tragedy, a murder mystery, a commentary on sexuality and race, and so on and so on and so on…If you truly love cinema as an art form this movie will open up plenty a debate between you and your film-nerd friends. This is a movie that will astound, captivate, enthrall, baffle, sadden and frustrate so many. It defies description and skewers conventions at every turn. No amount of writing I do in this tin space can do it justice (the reason why this review is shorter than usual). There will be some that love it, there will be some that detest it. It all depends on what kind of baggage you bring to an indescribable movie like this.”

Matt Balk, Cinema Snob: “Cloud Atlas is one of the most polarizing movies I’ve seen in a long time, certainly the most polarizing “mainstream” movie made in the US in the last half decade or so.  By “polarizing”, I mean that you will either A) almost certainly be fascinated by this movie, and grow to love it, or B) you will reject its premise by the halfway point and leave the theater demanding your $10 back.  I should let you know up front that personally, I fall into the former group. ..  One of your questions might be, is this a perfect movie? The answer is no. But is it a fascinating movie?  I would argue, yes… There are connections to be made (watch for the comet-shaped birthmark), but the viewer is asked to do a lot of the work; nothing is really spoon-fed for you.  Hell, I’m not even going to pretend I “understood” everything in Cloud Atlas, but I do want to see it again to experience it… The movie also uses this reincarnation concept to make some interesting choices (and potentially controversial ones) regarding race and gender.  Several of the lead characters switch gender and race throughout the movie, to varying effectiveness.  Some people may have a problem with the thought of Hugh Grant or Hugo Weaving playing a person of Asian decent (complete with makeup), while others might find it hard to see Halle Barry playing a Jewish-european or Ben Whishaw as a woman.  Most of the time the makeup works; most of the time.  And most of the actors are up to the task of playing multiple roles.  Is it offensive, to see white actors playing those of Asian descent, and vice-versa?  Normally I would say yes, but because the characters are not playing it up for laughs, and instead are (what I interpret as) representing souls, I did not find it problematic… [D]espite its flaws, I enjoyed the hell out of watching this movie, and really want to see it again. My Grade:  A-”

Mark Dujsik, Mark Reviews Movies: “Cloud Atlas is enormously ambitious in scope, bizarrely experimental in execution, and equal parts straightforward and confounding in its ideas.  The film imagines itself to be a hopeful fable about the significance of any given individual for the furtherance of humanity’s ideal.  Pragmatically, though, that idealism is overshadowed by the cyclical nature of its six-part narrative.  Here are stories about our tendency to kill, to oppress, and to conquer…. This is dense material, and the film is actually at its strongest when it engages us in hand-holding.  The scientist’s monologue, which arrives at a significant turning point in all six stories, and a climactic speech about the nature of freedom lend the stories an emotional impact that is often lost amidst the constant back-and-forth-and-further-back-and-even-further-forward narrative… It is easy to become disoriented as to the overarching purpose of Cloud Atlas as it offers stories of varying levels of interest and significance.  The film’s technical achievements, though, are substantial enough to forgive the film its shortcomings.”

James Jay Edwards, Film Fracture: “Cloud Atlas requires a bit of a commitment from the viewer. Clocking in at just less than three hours, it is not only long but heavy, deep and complex. It requires attention, and a casual audience may find themselves lost between the expansive ensemble of characters and the extensive time periods involved. But, for those with some patience and an appreciation for beautiful filmmaking, Cloud Atlas is a very rewarding experience… The cast in Cloud Atlas is remarkable. Not only does every performer play multiple roles (most of the big names have parts, albeit small, in all six segments), but the differences in genre and time period test each actors skills to the fullest. For example, Halle Berry plays two African American characters, two Indian characters and one rich Jewish character. Hugo Weaving even plays a Nurse Ratched-esque woman in the convalescent home segment. For many of the roles the actors are caked in makeup and prosthetics as well; Hugh Grant is in all six parts and is only recognizable as himself in the 1970s blacksploitation one. The entire ensemble has a field day, but Tom Hanks really stands out. His roles range from the lead in the post-apocalyptic section to a short cameo in the modern day area, and he is great whenever he is onscreen. Hanks and Berry are even forced to fumble through some seriously questionable dialect in the post-apocalyptic tale, and they not only pull it off, they own it. Even with tons of costuming and makeup hiding their faces and bodies, the experienced cast of Cloud Atlas manages to turn in memorable performances that add to the breathtaking imagery… The best way to describe Cloud Atlas is visually stunning. Every little detail of the filmmaking is meticulous, from the locations and sets to the special effects and makeup…  As different as the filmic choices are, everything still looks like it belongs in the same movie. The directors undertook a huge task with Cloud Atlas, but the end product succeeds admirably at what it sets out to do – it is an amazing, genre-bending example of modern filmmaking.”

Matthew Newlin, California Literary Review: “Watching Cloud Atlas, a magnificently orchestrated work of cinema, is like watching one of your most vivid dreams (the kind that is both ludicrously fantastical and disturbingly real) being projected on an enormous screen in front of you. Like the surreal adventures we have when we go to sleep at night, Cloud Atlas introduces the viewer to worlds they would have otherwise never imagined…  Far from a gimmick of indulgence on the part of the directors, the result of this approach is a sense that the audience has been a part of the story the whole time, just like the characters themselves. The characters (or their souls, more accurately) are experiencing the same struggles, conflicts, happiness and anger again and again and we the audience begin to sense what this seemingly endless cycle may feel like… One of the most vocal criticisms of Cloud Atlas will undoubtedly be the half dozen or so characters played by many of the lead actors. Detractors will likely try to argue that the film becomes a game of ‘spot the actor’ given the heavy makeup and prosthetics used to transform the actors from one incarnation into the next. This wasn’t an oversight on the part of the Wachowskis and Tykwer. The repetition of actors gives even greater depth to the sense of ‘Hey, haven’t I seen you somewhere before?’ that many of the characters experience throughout the film…Fans of the Wachowskis and Tykwer may leave feeling disappointed or deflated due to fact that Cloud Atlas is more about storytelling than spectacle…  While some of the actors are more adept at transformation than others, the performances overall are terrific…  Cloud Atlas is a cinematic experience unlike any other. The Wachowskis and Tykwer have delivered a film more ambitious than any of their other work with themes much more personal than they have, independently, explored before. It is a thrilling journey and an example of how magical cinema can be.”

Martin Lieberman, Martin’s Musings: “The stories aren’t told in chronological order. Rather, we bounce between them at a rapid pace like a pinball, marveling time and again at the parallels…Subtle it’s not: The connectedness theme is illustrated in each vignette by a protagonist who stands up to or fights against a controlling figure, showing the struggle to be free is one we will always face. Some characters in each story have a shooting-star birthmark. And we’re told multiple times that we are all but a drop in the ocean of life, or ‘our lives are not our own,’or ‘death opens another door.’…Most significant to the theme is that the same actors play roles in each vignette — sometimes roles that mix up genders, race, age, and skin color. It’s a total stunt that’s made possible with the help of some talented makeup artists, but it works as a way to illustrate that part of us carries on from one generation to the next… The Wachowskis and Twyker are visual masters, and each of the film’s six segments has its own unique look, feel, and tone… Kudos to the editing team for somehow making it all fit together… I respect the ambition of Cloud Atlas, and I did actually enjoy most of it. So I’m going to give the film a B.”

Tim Grierson, Deadspin: “I’m not a big fan of ensemble, “everything is, like, connected, man” movies, but to my mind Cloud Atlas trumps Crash, Babel, and the like because of how giddy and unbridled it is in its ambition and scope. Where other movies of this kind would ponderously cart out each dramatic irony or narrative echo with the seriousness of a sermon, Cloud Atlas is actually pretty light on its feet. There’s no question the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer are deeply invested in the notion that our lives are intertwined in mysterious, cosmic ways, but they approach that idea utilizing a breezy pop vernacular. Like The Matrix and Run Lola Run, Cloud Atlas takes Weighty Themes and gives them a crowd-pleasing spin… That’s why the movie’s mix of genres is so lively and, at the same time, profound in a playful way…  When you get right down to it, Cloud Atlas is very much about the act of storytelling itself, and while not all the segments work, not one of them plays out in a predictable way—they bounce around with a sense of limitless possibility, as if their tellers are making them up as they go along…  In that spirit, I found the more questionable choices—like having Halle Berry in whiteface or Hugo Weaving made up as a woman—kind of a hoot. You complain that the movie ‘veers most dangerously toward camp’ at these moments, but I think that’s just one more tone in the film, another color on the filmmakers’ palette. For all of its supposed seriousness, Cloud Atlas is actually pretty damn fun… I think this is a pretty dazzling-looking movie. If the stories didn’t work for you, I can imagine this won’t make much of a difference, but Cloud Atlas is quite often simply stunning as a piece of visual storytelling… Cloud Atlas is one of those rare movies whose inconsistencies didn’t bother me that badly because its confident audacity smooths over most of those problems. A few iffy effects shots, silly wigs, and some awkward stabs at comedy don’t derail a movie that’s this brazenly alive and free. It’s easy to let its flaws get to you, but I think it’s far more rewarding if you accept them as part of the rich tapestry of this whole crazy endeavor. I’m glad I did.”

Louie Coruzzollo, Chasing Cinema: “Cloud Atlas presents several, different set periods that are visually stunning. Wether it is in futuristic Korea, or in the post-apocalyptic Hawaii the visuals are wonderful. The filmmakers create a fantastic universe that is unique, beautiful, loving, cold, and bold. Along with the great scenery the special effects are just as astonishing. This easily allows the audience to get lost in their universe, and to be swept away for three hours. Accompanying the visual feast is a magnificent score that sets up the film extremely well. The score is soothing, mysterious, sad, and courageous all in the right places. These two qualities are easily the best part of the film, and makes Cloud Atlas a unique experience in the theaters…Cloud Atlas boasts a great cast, and allows many of the cast members to tackle several different characters…  While this is a very intriguing feat that the group accomplishes; the acting in this movie does not blow you away. Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw and James D’Arcy are the ones that stand out, but the rest just blend in together.. The major flaw of Cloud Atlas lies with the construction of the stories. The magnitude of the stories are very strong, and are deserving of their own film. By making the stories connect and interweaving, the stories’ affect on the audience is diminished. ..[Also], a great movie should show us their message, and not tell us through repetitive dialogue… Cloud Atlas is still a unique experience that can be appreciated by some. This is not your average Friday night popcorn flick. This movie will make you think throughout, and expects the audience to be collectively intelligent.”

Alyn Darnay, I Rate Films: “I’m sure this film will find its critics, but for me it’s definitely one of the best films of the year. It has also set the record as the most expensive independently financed feature of all time, at approximately $100 million, and it shows everywhere you look on the screen. I believe that Tykwer and the Wachowskis have created a true work of filmic art, that they dared to take big chances, and have fashioned a true cinematic eye-opening blockbuster of a movie. Its grand style, in both scope and ambition, will challenge you as it entertains you and transports you to other times and places. It’s a true movie going experience not to be missed…A word of caution, walk into this film with an open mind and try not to read or listen to too much about it beforehand. A good deal of the fun of the film is in your discovery of its themes and characters. To miss that, is to miss much of the fun.” (4.5 out of 5 Stars)

Fast Food Flix: “Cloud Atlas is the first film I’ve seen in a long time to leave me urging for an immediate second viewing. That’s saying something about The Wachowski Siblings’ and Tom Tykwer’s latest cinematic (and enigmatic) achievement. It’s an ambitious feat to say the least, and anyone who says otherwise should be escorted to Here Comes the Boom instead. Maybe then audiences can be spoon-fed watered-down themes of courage and determination….  The themes and principles explored in Cloud Atlas are too complex and abundant to be analyzed in this review, but I can assure you you’ll leave the theater pocketing a few quotes to later post on your Facebook status… Notwithstanding, the performances here are all relatively strong as we get to see our favorite stars showing off their chops and acting in multiple roles.. Cloud Atlas is a perfect example of classic cinema; it’s a film that exhibits all of the elements in a production coalescing harmoniously to create a truly unique experience. Come award season, it will get the nod in a variety of departments, most notably for Make-up, Editing, and Best Adapted Screenplay…I don’t know how many people will actually enjoy this cinematic experience; Cloud Atlas definitely elicits a mental workout—but I reckon many people will cherish it as something truly original and unparalleled to anything they’ve ever seen.”

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