CA Title

STUDIO: Warner Home Video
MSRP: $34.99
RUNNING TIME: 172 minutes

• Seven “Focus Point” featurettes

The Pitch

Characters dress up in racial and ethnic makeup to show how everyone is connected.

The Humans

Based on the novel by David Mitchell, directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer, starring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, and Doona Bae.

The Nutshell

An incredibly ambitious film that explores how the actions of an individual impacts the past, present, and future. Through six interconnected stories the filmmakers examine how kindness and greed, love and malice, teeth collecting and rude customers affect the delicate fabric of the human condition. It’s easily one of the most ambitious films and a masterfully crafted mosaic of emotions- although it won’t work for everyone. If you can get past all of the distracting ethnic and racial makeup jobs (I couldn’t), Cloud Atlas may rock your world.

The Lowdown

Hanks can do anything. That's a fact.

Hanks can do anything. That’s a fact.

All of the central characters in Cloud Atlas rebel against boundaries and struggle for freedom in one form or another. It’s fitting then that the film was created by Lana and Andy Wachowski (along with Tom Tykwer), who have spent their entire careers spitting in the face of cinema’s limitations. Based on the “unadaptable” novel by David Mitchell, the film is a 3-hour epic that takes place in six different time periods, but not in order. The film cuts back and forth between the days of slavery in the U.S. to a post-apocalytpic “after the fall” – showing how people are interconnected through space and time or reincarnation or Tom Hanks’ face or something.

To further illustrate how everyone is connected, the main actors play several characters. Usually one in each time period and at least one time as a different race or gender. Sometimes they’re completely unrecognizable – like when Halle Berry (Gothika) plays an elderly Asian doctor who looks like the mouse-transformation scene in The Witches. There are a range of characters from the sympathetically pathetic to the profound, from the comedic to the despicable. My main problem with the film is that many of these characters aren’t very captivating. As for the stories themselves, some of them are good and some of them are downright boring.

This is not makeup. This man is actually elderly.

This is not makeup. This man is actually elderly.

There is a ton to like in this movie though. The Wachowskis know how to do big, exciting sci-fi action spectacles and they bring the heat on several occasions in Cloud Atlas. The imagery is astounding in every story – from primitive forests to ’70s San Francisco to a dystopian future. Everything looks amazing. The movie’s unique structure is pulled off flawlessly, which is something to be applauded. Connecting several different mini-movies into one seamless picture seems like something that’s very easy to fuck up, but the three talented filmmakers here pull it off masterfully. Whether you dig the film or not, you have to admire the shit outta that. The original score by Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek, and Reinhold Heil is amazing. I’ve listened to it frequently since first seeing the film and it’s incredibly beautiful and moving. I’m a sucker for moving, sweeping soundtracks and Cloud Atlas‘ score is all of those wonderful things and more.

The cast is good, except for Halle Berry who I never want to see in a movie. She acts like dogshit and I think it’s crazy she got a part this big. Doona Bae is phenomenal, except when they make her up like a cranky Mexican bodega owner. That choice was just baffling. Mr. Tom Hanks (The ‘Burbs) delivers one of the best roles in the film, as a tortured, selfish man in a distant future. But y’know what’s not one of his best roles? When he’s playing a hardass cockney geezer who shakes things up at a fancy party. For every terrific role, the actors also play a silly one in another story. Except for Berry. She’s miserable across the board.

Doona Bae is a replicant - I mean "fabricant."

Doona Bae is a replicant – I mean “fabricant.”

I get it, man. They made up the actors to look like different ethnicities and races to illustrate how all of the surface shit doesn’t matter – underneath we’re all the same. I couldn’t agree more. But it’s tough to get behind Keith David when he’s made up like an Asian. Or Susan Sarandon as an old Indian man – that’s a bit distracting. Jim Sturgess is fantastic in all of his parts, especially as the 19th century lawyer going through a moral transformation. I really like that guy. But when he plays an Asian in the dystopian future story, holy hell. He looks terrible! It sucks because I honestly think the ethnic makeup distracts the audience from some very solid performances.

As far as the subtext of “everything is connected” goes, it’s not going to be for everyone. I’m personally not into all the reincarnation denotations, but I sincerely admire how the filmmakers poetically and cinematically expressed their feelings on the subject. I know that I would’ve been more into it if I was more invested in the characters. I don’t want to sound like I”m going down too hard on Cloud Atlas. It’s an amazing film and brazenly ambitious. For a three hour film, I was never bored, even if I wasn’t engaged. I hope the Wachowskis continue to make ballsy films like these because somebody certainly has to. But hopefully next time there are a couple characters I can emotionally invest in.

Jim Sturgess does not make a convincing Asian man.

Jim Sturgess does not make a convincing Asian man.

Real quick….when I first saw the trailer for Cloud Atlas, the “we are all connected” voiceover reminded me of a great line from The Thin Red Line that conveys the message loud and clear without having actors made up like different races and ethnicities:  “Maybe all men got one big soul everybody’s a part of, all faces are the same man.” Boom. Right there. Without all the distracting makeup.

The Package

The Wachowski Starship and Tom Tykwer.

The Wachowski Starship, Tom Tykwer, and David Mitchell’s legs.

Warner Bros. presents Cloud Atlas in 1080p HD in 2.4:1 with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The presentation is fantastic. Colors are accurate and details is terrific. And for all the shit talking I did about the makeup jobs, at least you can’t spot any prosthetic imperfections or, y’know, rubber nose flaps or anything like that. Sometimes that kinda stuff is easy to spot in HD. So, top notch job from the makeup team. Hiding that stuff in HD must be a bitch.

The disc’s special features are made up of seven “Focus Point” featurettes, adding up to about an hour of bonus material. Some of them are okay, but most of them overlap and feel repetitive. The actors talk ALOT about how crazy it was to play six different characters. The Wahowskis and Tom Tykwer talk ALOT about how difficult it was to adapt the book. Overall it doesn’t add up to an interesting supplemental package.


Out of a Possible 5 Stars