Debate of the Day: Cloud Atlas


Despite seeing a movie or so a week, there are definitely many I miss throughout the year, even ones I had originally planned to see that somehow just slip through the cracks. One of them was Cloud Atlas, a collaboration between the Wachowski brothers and Run Lola Run’s Tom Tykwer that I just couldn’t seem to find three hours for.

I recently managed to sit down and watch it, and was pleasantly surprised by a film I found to be actually quite moving and profound. The problem is, it takes a while to get there. The story shifts between six narratives from a large range of time periods. There’s a traveling lawyer in the 1800s, a composer in the 1930s, a reporter in the 1970s, a publisherin 2012, a slave-clone in 2140 and a tribal post-apocalyptic tribe a few hundred years after that. The idea is that people endure over time, living multiple lives, and many of the same actors appear across the timelines in their past and future bodies. Tom Hanks, for example, appears in nearly all the timelines.

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the film at first. It dragged quite a bit and it was jarring to flip back and forth between so many stories every 2-4 minutes for three hours. They really didn’t seem to be all that connected, other than the actors, though you start to figure out the films major themes near the end. The movie ends up being about a mix of love and fighting the established order of things, and though disconnected, it’s a common thread that does run through all the stories.

It wasn’t until the last hour, but I did end up loving the film, and it likely would have made my top ten list had I seen it earlier. The film did quite poorly at the box office, as it couldn’t manage to explain what it was about in the first two hours of the movie, much less a two minute trailer. I’m wondering who else saw it, and what everybody thought of it.

  • David R

    Thought it was great. Its emotional hook kind of sneaked up on me, but by the ending credits I was totally with it.

  • It was my movie of the year. First movie since inception where I sit down with a friend after it and talked about it (and its implications) for some hours.

  • GrandWazoo

    Just nitpicking details here, but “I recently finally managed to sit down and watch it” doesn’t sound quite right. It’s either “I finally managed” or “I recently managed.” You could even have “I finally managed to sit down and watch it recently,” or “Recently, I finally managed to sit down and watch it.” While you can use two adverbs in a row, using two adverbs that end in ‘ly’ in a row sounds very muddled.

  • wevs

    I personally thought the concept was fascinating, but it somehow fell a tad short on my expectations. I felt my curiosity was not quite satisfied – the movie set the base for a very interesting future world that really fits with my own critique of modern society, and the post-apocalyptic time period was simply fantastic. I really wish the Wachowskis had expanded more on those two settings, although that may have changed the story element of our souls being pebbles in a giant tumble grinder, which I personally find fascinating ever since reading “Haunted” by Chuck Palahniuk (highly recommend that one).

  • hallamq

    Haven’t seen it. Now I definitely will.

  • This was one of my favourite movies of the year.

  • Dan

    I absolutely loved it, and really need to sit down and watch it again so I can catch the more subtle connections between stories I missed the first time (like the button).

  • Ozzy

    I loved the movie. I can see why people were turned off by the movie, at times it was confusing with the actors playing multiple roles. Having said that I was never confused because I read the book before seeing the movie which definitely improved the movie for me. I felt it the film did as much as it could to do a book of that scale justice.

  • Lightspeed

    I went to see this at the theater with high expectations and came out disappointed. It was only pretty good in my opinion. It was a beautiful mess. The story lines in each time period were only linked by the slimmest of threads and it was hard to follow. The slow pace of the film didn’t help either. What really brought it down, however, was poor acting from Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, Hanks especially. I never really got emotionally invested with any of their characters and it seemed that they were playing multiple roles just as a gimmick. I know it is supposed to help link the different stories and times together, but I thought it seemed phony and distracting. The whole movie I was telling my wife, “Look, it’s Tom Hanks again!” Or, “Hey, it’s Hugh Grant under all that warpaint!”

    Overall, it just didn’t work for me.

  • Josh

    I know I am the only one of my friends who saw this that actually enjoyed it. And I more than enjoyed it. I loved it beyond all recognition. I currently have it ranked as my fourth favorite film of all time on Letterboxd and it was quite easily the best film of 2012 (though I also loved Safety Not Guaranteed). Absolutely fantastic story and acting and the direction was a feat unto itself.

  • domin8r

    I really liked it!

    The first half hour was a bit challenging, trying to figure out who is who, who is when, etc. But it was enjoyable enough to give it that time. After that it just gets more connected and starts making more and more sense.

    All in all I don’t really understand how this one flew under the radar while other movies get picked up. Maybe people want “easy movies” and are put off by it’s length. In any case it’s a movie worth seeing!

  • stoomay

    This was probably my favorite film of the year. Two things stood out to me: Ben Whishaw and the film’s score. Brilliant. Also I found it interesting how Soonmi-451 was a clone and yet still was a reincarnation. I didn’t love Tom Hanks or the idea of birthmarks connecting everyone, though.

  • barretstrife

    @Paul Tassi

    Phenomenal movie, loved it, kinda went under the radar… But not because of Tom Hanks

    Best movie pitch in history—tom-hanks

  • SeaJay Light

    It’s Wachowski siblings, not brothers anymore.

  • Mike

    I thought the concept was good but the stories behind each time period/character were boring and bland. Same hashed out stuff. I think that’s what makes it unappealing for the first couple hours. I agree though, the last hour was great and changed my entire impression of the film. For the first two hours, whiskey!

  • Batman

    Best movie ever. There are several connections that each story has. 1 every story surrounds itself with parts of them or their life is recorded down in some device, book, music, or recording and effects future stories/people. It also deals with reincarnation and how your previous life effects your future life. Tom Hanks character(s) goes through an entire spectrum.

  • I thought it was a really good movie and it could have a lot of connections there is very subtle to see!

  • Diego Pagura

    One of the best movies of the past years. Really intense, interesting, innovative, well acted and above all, human. It was a big bet to make a movie like this, most people would not like or understand it. The fact that you look at it twice or three times and you still find new suprises, makes me like it even more. Kind of a Memento thing.