I saw Cloud Atlas recently. Twice. I have read a bunch of reviews for it, which are pretty middling, describing it as many things. Dodgy prosthetics. Trite moralising. Overly long. Disjointed. Ambitious failure. Feel free to chart these out yourself…
I agree that it was ambitious, and I agree that it failed to reach the mainstream, but I was very impressed. A lot happens in the 2-3 hours of the film, and even more goes on behind the scenes. The cinematography was lovely, and the music too. My take: We are witnessing the lives and interactions of a group of souls across several generations. In addition, certain souls remain typecast in fairly constant roles, whereas other seem to change and develop. See the table below (from the Wiki):
|Actor||“The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing” (1849)||“Letters from Zedelghem” (1936)||“Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery” (1973)||“The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish” (2012)||“An Orison of Sonmi~451” (2144)||“Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin’ After” (2321)|
|Tom Hanks||Dr. Henry Goose||Hotel Manager||Isaac Sachs||Dermot Hoggins||Cavendish Look-a-like Actor||Zachry|
|Halle Berry||Native Woman||Jocasta Ayrs||Luisa Rey||Indian Party Guest||Ovid||Meronym|
|Jim Broadbent||Captain Molyneux||Vyvyan Ayrs||N/A||Timothy Cavendish||Korean Musician||Prescient 2|
|Hugo Weaving||Haskell Moore||Tadeusz Kesselring||Bill Smoke||Nurse Noakes||Boardman Mephi||Old Georgie|
|Jim Sturgess||Adam Ewing||Poor Hotel Guest||Megan’s Dad||Highlander||Hae-Joo Chang||Adam / Zachry Brother-in-Law|
|Doona Bae||Tilda Ewing||N/A||Megan’s Mom, Mexican Woman||N/A||Sonmi~451, Sonmi~351, Sonmi Prostitute||N/A|
|Ben Whishaw||Cabin Boy||Robert Frobisher||Store Clerk||Georgette||N/A||Tribesman|
|James D’Arcy||N/A||Young Rufus Sixsmith||Old Rufus Sixsmith||Nurse James||Archivist||N/A|
|Zhou Xun||N/A||N/A||Talbot / Hotel Manager||N/A||Yoona~939||Rose|
|Keith David||Kupaka||N/A||Joe Napier||N/A||An-kor Apis||Prescient|
|David Gyasi||Autua||N/A||Lester Rey||N/A||N/A||Duophysite|
|Susan Sarandon||Madame Horrox||N/A||N/A||Older Ursula||Yosouf Suleiman||Abbess|
|Hugh Grant||Rev. Giles Horrox||Hotel Heavy||Lloyd Hooks||Denholme Cavendish||Seer Rhee||Kona Chief|
Hugh Grant and Hugo Weaving play characters bound to order and consistency, the former as some kind of profiteer who works the system to his advantage, the latter as the defender of the status quo. Weaving’s Nurse Noakes was exquisite! By contrast:
Tom Hanks starts off greedy, then works his way towards happiness at the end.
Halle Berry is questing for truth, becoming increasingly empowered towards the end.
Jim Sturgess starts off struggling to develop a moral backbone, and towards the end is increasingly empowered in defence of his ideals.
Doona Bae starts off as Jim Sturgess’ love, meekly sharing his moral sensibilities, and is elevated to godhood at the end.
There are lots of stories here, and the interactions between them merit exploration too. I know the prosthetics may be distracting, but they serve to identify the souls by a similarity of appearance. Alternative devices may have been more subtle, but I suspect would have made the identification nigh impossible for people.
I have a soft spot for the words of Sonmi – very simple but elegant language, food for the soul. To those who described the meaning as some wishy washy tale of cosmic interconnectedness, I’d say that a shallow man sees his own reflection in the deepest of ponds.
‘Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others. Past and present. And by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.’ – Sonmi-451