Movie Review: Cloud Atlas

By  | 

“Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to each other, past and present. And by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”

The word “epic” is often overused. “Cloud Atlas,” a global journey of lives through time and space, is the epitome of epic. Adapted from “unfilmable” novel by David Mitchell, the extraordinary efforts of the Wachowskis (“The Matrix”) and Tom Twyker embarked on possibly the most ambitious film ever made. Main characters (Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Xun Zhou, David Gyasi, Ben Whishaw, James D’Arcy, Jim Broadbent, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, Hugo Weaving) impressively embody multiple roles in different ages, races, gender and gender orientation spanning over 500 years.

Six storylines take place in 1849 Pacific Ocean, 1936 Cambridge and Edinburgh, 1973 San Francisco, 2012 London, 2144 Neo-Soul, 2321 post-apocalyptic Hawaii, creating a brilliant fusion of genres. Period drama, romance, thriller, comedy, action, sci-fi. In 1849, a young lawyer from a privileged background finds a slave stowaway in the ship. In 1936, an aspiring classical composer musters the guts to work with an elderly, temperamental maestro, while carrying a painful, private secret. In 1973, an investigative journalist risks her life to uncover a nuclear power leak conspiracy. In 2012, a publisher finds himself in a bind, on the run from debtors, and trapped in a nursing home against his will. In 2144, a fabricant (clone) discovers the truth about her fellow fabricants, falls in love with the commander of the rebel forces, rises and inspires the masses, and eventually becomes an important symbol for humankind. In 2321, after the fall of civilization, a tribesman struggles with his demon, faces constant threat from cannibal warlords, and teams up with a space traveler to survive and preserve human race.

Cinematography, production design, art direction, score, costume and makeup deserve recognition, but the most outstanding accomplishment perhaps goes to editing. What seem to be insurmountable complexity, moving forward storylines of a massive number of characters in multiple distinct eras, somehow, flawlessly flows. An act in one scene is deftly cut and continues on to the next scene in a different era. By nature, the immense scale of the film, nearly three hours in length, demands full attention and patience. About halfway through, confusion will subside and you’ll find yourself immerse in the experience.

There are “forces (that) begin long before we are born and continue after we perish.” Whether or not you believe in reincarnation of souls, there will be things from the film that will stay with you long after. Some storylines may be more compelling to you than others. You’ll be touched, awed, horrified, enraptured, wonder and laugh. Be it breathtaking imageries (most notably dystopian Neo-Soul) that stun or lavish the eyes, stirring score that shift emotions, fragments of profound human moments, or recurrent and universal themes through generations of civilization – kindness, love, courage, dignity, oppression, sacrifice, equality, truth, freedom, fate, free will, destiny – and interconnectivity of lives where one’s choice has consequences, impacts another life and another lifetime, and reverberates to eternity.

Sit through the credits and see which actors play which roles. Some are obvious, others not so much. Some disguises push the boundaries of imagination and a treat to discover.

It’s not easy to encapsulate “Cloud Atlas” into words. This daring, mind-bending soul journey is a spell-binding extravaganza. Its transcendent quality has earned its place in history and will not be forgotten.

Watch “Cloud Atlas” on the big screen at UltraStar Cinemas. UltraStar Cinemas is perfect for a family outing, offering food and movie tickets at great prices. If you have a little one with you then you’ll want to take advantage of their unique movie experiences. Parent movie morning is a great opportunity for new parents to get out and see a movie without having to leave their baby at home or worry about disturbing other guests.  Offering other kid friendly options UltraStar Cinemas is the place to be.

Another great feature is their DBox experience. You probably won’t want to strap up your baby to these seats, but you’ll want to experience them for yourself  With a motion generating system integrated into a single seat for each featured film you don’t want to miss out on this fun experience. With locations all over San Diego you can experience the true cinematic experience without breaking the bank at UltraStar Cinemas.

Copyright (c) 2012. Nathalia Aryani.
Nathalia Aryani is a business manager, foreign language translator, lifestyle/travel writer and film columnist. She can be reached at Nathalia owns a movies blog, The MovieMaven ( Twitter:

Nathalia Aryani is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic ( She has a movie blog, The MovieMaven ( Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at [email protected].

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *