Cloud Atlas trades rebellion for romance

Cloud Atlas is Hanks' latest offering.

Cloud Atlas is Hanks’ latest offering. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Directed by: The Wachowskis, Tom Tykwer
Stars: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess
Running time: 164 minutes

It is likely that Cloud Atlas will be the film that fills theatres for the next three months, gets quoted endlessly on Facebook, and inspires various Halloween and cosplay costumes.

The movie has the same attractive qualities that kept audiences coming back for the Matrix trilogy: it discusses eternal questions about freedom and individuality, while visually entertaining the viewers with bare breasts and gunfire.

It preserves the major themes of David Mitchell’s novel, but the movie emphasizes the romantic side of things, leading to a drastically different interpretation of the plot.

An ambitious adaptation, Cloud Atlas takes on the task of combining six storylines and six main characters coherently. Each story takes place in a different historical period, from the late nineteenth century to the year 2144. Zachry (Tom Hanks), a tribesman in a post-apocalyptic world, begins the narrative as an old man reminiscing about the past. The plot then alternates between the stories of five other characters.

The movie avoids the complex narrative style of the book, creating a simpler connection by matching action sequences and voiceovers between stories. Limiting the number of actors also had interesting results.

Considering that the main six actors reappear in every story, Cloud Atlas’ theme of interconnectedness is fairly easy to follow (if the viewer can get over seeing six different versions of Tom Hanks for three hours). “Our lives are not our own,” Sonmi the cloned fabricant sums up, “From womb to tomb, we are bound to others.”

The book’s theme is explored through each character’s narration of the next protagonist’s story, but the movie is mainly focused on relationships. Sadly, this takes away from the sociopolitical issues discussed by Mitchell, replacing them instead with multiple tear-jerking scenes of lovers dying in their partner’s arms.

There were some unsettling make-up changes throughout the movie, including trying to make Jim Sturgess look Korean and turning Doona Bae into a nineteenth-century freckled redhead. Although Hugo Weaving appears in six very different roles (including one as a female nurse), it is difficult not to think of him as The Matrix’s villainous Agent Smith.

A movie of this length and budget is bound to have a few cheesy lines and ridiculous costumes to keep the viewer entertained. David Mitchell admits in his article on film adaptations that content-heavy novels often lose depth when translated into movie scripts, to avoid losing the audience’s attention. For viewers unfamiliar with the novel, though, Cloud Atlas is an engaging story that will keep the audience curious for all three hours.

OVERALL GRADE: B-

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