The best word to describe “Cloud Atlas” is big: big stars, big running time, big budget, big ideas, big ambition. There’s even too much movie to be contained in a typical trailer – an extended, almost six-minute version online is the only real way to get a grasp of what this film is all about.
Written and directed by the Wachowski siblings (responsible for “The Matrix” trilogy), the $100-million movie is adapted from the novel of the same name by David Mitchell. “Cloud Atlas” is not easily contained in a two-sentence summary, but here’s a shot: Six storylines from different periods of time, varying from the 1800s to a distant future of an unknown date, show how people’s lives are always connected and how certain universal themes affect us all.
The cuts between stories are mostly flawless, allowing audiences to process a leap of hundreds of years as if only mere moments. What’s possibly more amazing is that the same lead actors, including Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, play a different character in every time period, sometimes requiring extensive Hollywood magic to do so. These worlds range from a deathly ill lawyer traveling across the Pacific Ocean in 1849 to a genetically modified laborer struggling to break free from systematic oppression in the 22nd century.
Clocking in at almost three hours, there is still never a dull moment. The stakes are often life and death and the fate of every character seems to be equally compelling.
The film is a puzzle that demands multiple viewings to piece it all together, but only one viewing to appreciate the emotional journey. It’s at times funny, at times haunting, and eventually enlightening. While it may not answer the meaning of life, go into the theater with an open mind and a few hours to spare, and one thing is for certain: “Cloud Atlas” will move you.