‘Cloud Atlas’ is a Sprawling Achievement

I’d be lying if I didn’t at least acknowledge that writing a review of Cloud Atlas started eating at me well before my screening ended. I usually try to immerse myself in a film while watching it (something easier said than done with some films), while still taking mental notes of elements to highlight for my review. With Cloud Atlas, one word kept surfacing in my head:

Sprawling.

Cloud Atlas contains six different stories taking place over a vast stretch of time, from the 1849 through 2346. The film’s cast includes Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent and a host of others playing roles in most, if not all, of the individual storylines. In the book of the same name, author David Mitchell tells each story in chronological order. Here, directors Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer and Andy Wachowski intercut each individual story, with thematic similarities tying the story together into a nearly three-hour running time.

The result is mind-boggling. Cloud Atlas is easily one of the most ambitious films to reach theaters in quite some time. It’s a film that requires multiple viewings in order to begin to grasp its complexity. It’s also a film that will inevitably spark numerous discussions, and that will provoke strong responses from its audience. If there’s one film I had to name as the love-it-or-hate-it film of 2012, Cloud Atlas would most likely be my first choice.

What I can say about Cloud Atlas from my own viewing is this: I wasn’t bored at any point during the film, even with the hefty run time. Each story is different enough from the others that jumping around results in none of the stories overstaying their welcome. I’ll admit that I was a bit lost at the beginning of the film, a reaction I’ve heard from others who’ve seen the film already too. Don’t let that dissuade you from watching, though. While it’s not for everybody, if the film intrigues you at all, make a point of seeing it at least once. When you do see it, come back and post your thoughts on the film. If nothing else, Cloud Atlas is a film that demands discussion.

In fact, here are some LGBT-related starting points (note: may contain spoilers!) – feel free to talk about these or any other topics in the comments section:

  • The storyline with the darkest ending may be the second one chronologically, involving gay musician Robert Frobisher (Ben Whishaw). Do you think it was necessary for this story in particular to end on its tragic note?
  • One aspect of the cast’s multiple roles is that they take on various genders, along with races. Is this something that the filmmakers handle properly or not?
  • Co-director Lana Wachowski recently came out as trans. Watching the film, do you think her personal back story had any particular influence on the film?
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