The newest movie by the Wachowski siblings and Tom Tykwer, “Cloud Atlas,” includes an array of genres with hints of science fiction, fantasy, crime drama, romance and historical fiction.The settings range from sailing ships in the age of the civil war all the way to two separate and far flung dystopian futures. All the settings and story lines are tied together by basic themes, repeated dialogue and the actors portraying multiple characters in each story.In “Cloud Atlas,” each major character has up to six roles that they play. However, each character retains its own traits and oftentimes it is hard to tell where the cast intersections are. I would not be surprised if the makeup and production teams will be nominated for awards at the end of the year for character design and costume execution. The actors themselves do a stunning job of keeping in character for each of their roles and do a tremendous job in bringing all of them to life. Even if “Cloud Atlas” was split into six separate stories, they would be great stories individually. But since they were all tied into one another through ancestry, circumstance, zealotry and cosmic continuity, this movie becomes more than the sum of its parts. We get a new and long narrative spanning over thousands of years connected by small strings of what some would call coincidence.A crime drama by itself can be so-so, but often times those movies don’t have a message much different from “crime doesn’t pay.” But in “Cloud Atlas,” the story changes and takes on depth when you add in the twist, as it adds depth and personality to a large character. Major themes that run through “Cloud Atlas” are slavery, choice, freedom, secrets, duality, love and transcending barriers. These themes are not separated into individual plot lines, but instead made appearances throughout the movie, particularly the concept of transcending barriers. The barriers are the reason that so few actors played so many roles and why there are physical and verbal ties between story lines. The directors wanted to hammer home that throughout time we are all connected and that elements such as love and passion can follow those connections into our present lives.So does this all come together? Is the movie “Cloud Atlas” good? Well, it depends on your taste. The three hour runtime of the movie can detract from mass appeal plus the plot makes you engage in critical thinking, which might not please everyone. I personally think that this movie is one of the greatest of our time and should be seen by as many people as possible. I recommend it with the caveats that it can both overstay its welcome and can be hard to discern at times.
By: Sean Burke