With a reported production budget of 102 million dollars, 'Cloud Atlas' is perhaps the most expensive independent movie to ever have been produced. With top quality sequences, high standard production and a world class cast, it can be safely said that this budget never seems to have been wasted. Directed by a trilogy of filmmakers, splitting the production into halves, the film resonates quality throughout. Be it not for a confusing and overly long plot, 'Cloud Atlas' could well have been the film of the year already.
To describe this film however, would be impossible without revealing the twists and turns that come from within its moments. The official synopsis states that 'Cloud Atlas' is 'An Exploration of how actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future. As one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and that an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution'. To bring about this synopsis to the screen, the narrative follows six interconnected and interwoven stories. Transporting audiences from the south pacific through to a distant future metropolis named Neo Seoul, the film uses these six narratives to create an overriding story arc of love, violence and mystery blended together though a drama/science fiction mix. Having six interconnected narratives, enables this film to feel huge. However, the drawback to the sheer scope of what is shown on screen, is that plots come intertwined so much, and edits cut between centuries of time within minutes of one another that the whole thing can be a little overwhelming, confusing and messy. A film that requires multiple viewings, so as to see understand it fully.
Another thing 'Cloud Atlas' does that could be seen as risky, is the choice of character casting that has been made. Multiple roles are performed by the lead actors, regardless of gender or race. One section may have an actor in the villain role only for them to appear as a protagonists ten minutes later. This adds another level for the film to feel connected throughout. Tom Hanks portrays no less than 6 different characters within this film; one in each sequence. The roles differ completely from one to another, one being a scientist and another a crooked sailor. Although all his performances are clearly him, it is nice to see an actor of his calibre taking on such a risk as this film. Halle Berry is another member of the cast that appears in all six narratives. As the second lead, her roles usually feature heavily in Hanks'. Luckily the characters seem to have chemistry where necessary and they can easily be believed as connected throughout the centuries - the statement that this film makes. Other cast members that appear in all six include Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess and Hugh Grant- here portraying some characters far away from what he is stereotypically known for. Jim Sturgess makes the biggest impression in this film, his character featured in the Neo Seoul segment is by far the most developed and interesting to feature in this film. His growing maturity as an actor is easily noticed with what is portrayed here. Established and comfortable, he allows his characters to feel engrossing, realistic and believable. Filling the other character positions within this film are the likes of Jim Broadbent, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, James D'Arcy and Susan Sarandon. With the quality of actors involved within this film, it is not surprising the standard of which they portray their roles. Established into their parts, the casting- which at first seems strange- grows into a blended ensemble that fills the screen throughout.
Fitting in six narratives does make the film overly long. Lasting three hours, the film does not always keep the pace high throughout - thus making sections seemingly drag. When the pace is higher however, and whilst the narrative is flitting between revelations of events, 'Cloud Atlas' is perhaps one of the most complete film narratives to have ever been released. With a screenplay and editing that merges the narratives so as to work together, the film never feels like separate story-line; instead being easily seen as one. Long winded in places, 'Cloud Atlas' could possibly be in need of some fine tuning. However, with what is presented to audiences within this film, it is thorough enough to keep most people entertained - if not for anything else than seeing an acting masterclass by all featured within. Utilizing six stories in various locations means that this plot is always showing something new to viewers, to support this the cinematography within this film needed to be of an extremely high standard. Luckily this film does not disappoint on this factor, with some of the most envisioned shots to ever be put on film, and production values that really bring the sequences to live.
'Cloud Atlas' is perhaps the riskiest film to be released this year. It could also be the best. Incorporating six extremely interesting story-lines into one feature, in the way that is managed here, could never have been easy - yet through persistence of keeping to the source material the filmmakers have created a strong film throughout. To stick through the confusion will lead to one of the deepest films of recent times, a true modern classic. A