Cloud Atlas is quite simply one of the best films I've ever seen in my entire life. But then again this is not something I would call just a film. It is unlike anything I've ever seen before. Its narrative isn't traditional in any sense of the word; it flows like clouds around a globe. They thunder, they pour, they disappear to reveal a clear blue sky. It takes not just cinematic technique further, but storytelling further. This is a cinematic masterpiece that deserves to be a product of the 21st century.
It is at once cerebral, emotional and spiritual. While it makes you think and feel, it also elevates your consciousness. I could feel my mind expanding. Finally, a film which respects the cognitive capacity each human brain is gifted with. It tells 6 stories spanning across ages but it is actually one story. I wasn't getting a lot of what was going on but at the same time I was. I was getting all of it. You just need to let yourself go.
This genre-defying motion picture has everything I could ask for in a movie, probably more. It is based on the novel by David Mitchell which I'm sure I will read once I obsessively watch the film a few more times. There are several themes that run along the narrative, from slavery to art to love to truth. I can imagine why someone would find this film confusing or get bored but that is just because we aren't accustomed to watching films like these. I for one was sweepingly entertained from start to finish. It is long, yes, but then again I like my films long especially when they are this good.
There were several set pieces that made me tear up in awe of the beauty or hold my breath in fear or just smile out of sheer contentment. My favorite is the one, which comes smack in the middle of the film, when the Cloud Atlas sextet is composed and the car and the plane reach their own crescendos. It also helps when the music is as beautiful as what Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil concoct. I found myself humming the theme on my way out.
Christopher Nolan is known for making big budget cerebral films. He owes his career to Stanley Kubrick, a visionary who made big budget art films. Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski use all of their cinematic powers to create a work of art, which is so grand in scope and experimental in ideas that the screen feels small in front of them. It is no coincidence that Warner Brothers invested in all of these projects.
I could name several films like 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), The Tree of Life (2011), Solaris (1972) and The Fountain (2006) but that would give you the wrong idea. Furthermore, it would make you believe I'm comparing it to these masterpieces when I'm only adding this film to a prestigious club.
In times like these when 3D is being used to make cinema seem technologically innovative, here is a film equally audacious and ambitious, probably more. It's not just visually progressive but narratively and intellectually as well. Best part is it doesn't need a gimmick to do so. Probably it does and that gimmick lies in the casting of the same actors in all the stories. Take a look at this cast: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, Susan Sarandon, Hugo Weaving, James D'Arcy and Doona Bae. It probably also lies in the editing, the match cuts which link the stories with spatial action. These are hardly gimmicks for me, to be honest.
Let your mind go, stop trying to think of the meaning behind each scene and you'll actually understand the film. Do this at least on the first viewing. Feel the movie, like you would feel a great piece of music and you will have an experience that is beautiful, that is transcendental. An experience that is true true.