“CLOUD ATLAS”— Impacting Others

cloud atlas

Cloud Atlas”

Impacting Others

Amos Lassen

Based on the best-selling novel “Cloud Atlas” written by David Mitchell “Cloud Atlas”, the film is an exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future. One soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution. Past, present and future are all connected in this story (to put it simply) of six interlinking narratives are woven together. There are diverse settings from the savagery of a Pacific Island in the 1850s to a dystopian Korea of the near future.Filming “Cloud Atlas” was an ambitious project but it is a movie that is a product of our modern technological age of the internet driven universal knowledge and vision and the fact that we are free to travel the world and actually jump between time periods, genres and identities.

Many felt that this was a project that could not be filmed with its six different timelines that switch after every scene. It takes a little while to get into the overall theme of the film but once done, there is little confusion when the story jumps around moving from the story is a runaway slave in the 1800s to a post apocalyptic battle in the future between some of the last surviving humans on earth. The film was made with an all-star cast who all give wonderful performances. The film transcends the simple elements of actors and plots and we are taken to a whole new level of storytelling in this film of passion, ambition and technical brilliance.


An epic film by Tom Tykwer and Andy and Lana Wachowski, “Cloud Atlas” is entwined from a cacophonous series of plot strands: “Its ideas are paralleled, its themes twinned, sometimes breathlessly, sometimes fatuously, into what may be described as a 164-minute pop song of seemingly infinite verses, choruses, and bridges. Perhaps expectedly, it soars” and sometimes it flops.

The opening of the film sets the pace as it mesmerizes the audience and we are off on a magical journey through time and space as all six stories move forward to create one all-encompassing story. It is not clear right away what the characters have to do with each other but by the time the movie ends (it is some three hours long), it all comes together beautifully. The actors play different roles throughout the film as they find themselves in different stories and periods of time.

”Cloud Atlas” takes you anywhere and everywhere. It may surprise you by its sudden burst of violence, sometimes exaggerated and almost funny, sometimes cold and raw. You might cry at times, as the characters make choices and sacrifices. One story is particularly funny and had the theatre laughing quite often. This is no ordinary film. It’s a voyage that will take you to places you didn’t expect. Don’t try to understand it, just let yourself go and you’ll find you understood what it was all about. If you’re looking for a linear plot, then this film isn’t for you.

The film takes us on shipboard in the 1800s, where a young man forms an unlikely bond with a stowaway, a runaway slave. It tells the sensitive, melancholy story of a promising young composer in the 1930s, (Ben Whishaw) – separated by prejudice and misfortune from his lover, a man named Sixsmith (James D’Arcy). It also brings us to 1973, where an intrepid reporter finds herself caught up in a web of murder and intrigue. In the present day, the film offers up the comedic tale of a publisher on the run from a gang of thugs. Plunging into the future, it shows a dystopian vision of Seoul, South Korea that is comparable to “Blade Runner” and a primitive post-apocalyptic Hawaii.

The stories are linked together by themes of love, compassion and the love of liberty especially in the story of composer Robert Frobisher and Sixsmith which depicts pure and true love. Likewise for the tender moments between the central characters of the portion of the film set in the futuristic New Seoul. Even in the blatantly comic segment with Jim Broadbent as the publisher, a deep passion for freedom and human dignity shines through.

All the actors do excellent work in their multiple roles. We care for Tom Hanks one moment as a villager in a future Hawaii, and then detest him in the next scene where he plays a truly despicable doctor. The finest performances are given, however, by Doona Bae and Jim Broadbent. I think they surpass all the rest. Bae plays a “fabricant”, a kind of clone designed to serve humanity. Her gradual awakening to her own self-worth, to the subjugation of herself and of her people, is beautifully and movingly conveyed. She is heartbreaking in this role. Broadbent is equally excellent as the publisher Cavendish. His expressive face and popping eyes are ideal for comedy – and he’s hilarious. But he’s more than that. Broadbent infuses the character with a sense of sorrow and weariness at key moments. Cavendish has depth, a history, regrets from his past. Broadbent brings all this out brilliantly without losing his comic touch.

Hugo Weaving obviously is a show stopper in several scenes. The make-up and costume design are amazing visuals and the score of the movie are excellent.


This film will not be for everyone due to its complexity and length, but for those who are true fans of films this epic in nature will truly appreciate the film. I very much look forward to another viewing of the film and encourage everyone to see the film at least once.

Presented as an incantation by an old tribesman, Zachry (Tom Hanks), sits by a fire and speaks of “all the voices tied up into one,” turning his face to reveal a scar whose origins we will understand—it is like the birthmarks and familiar traumas that unite characters across each of the film’s six stories, as an inheritance. Each story engages with unique social conditions from our human history and foreseeable future, though all are connected by the idea that the lives of its characters, citizens of places as far-flung as late-19th-century San Francisco and a primitive, post-apocalyptic Hawaii, aren’t their own. “Cloud Atlas”is more spiritual than religious, and its belief system hinges on the notion that humanity is in a constant state of reincarnation, recycling its triumphs along with its follies.

Throughout the film, a star can become a supporting player as a way of linking the six stories together. Itis a rare film that’s greater than the sum of parts. It brings together pain and pleasure as we travel across history and see the joys and the pains of the characters.

This may be one the most ambitious and epic films ever made—an odyssey that spans the globe over 500 years and jumps between numerous interwoven story lines that incorporate just about every film genre available, featuring actors playing several different roles each. It was a huge challenge for the filmmakers to adapt and finance (its estimated budget of over $100 million also makes it the most expensive independent film ever made). The cast is massive—Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, and Xun Zhou each take on multiple roles that play with the actors’ ages, races, and genders (Susan Sarandon, Keith David, James D’Arcy, and Doona Bae also have smaller roles). By and large, they pull off the various requirements of the roles, many of which require a significant amount of prosthetics and makeup. Several of the roles were so well disguised that it was almost impossible to distinguish who played what role and we have to wait for the final credits to roll. You certainly will not recognize Halle Berry as a white Victorian housewife or Hugh Grant as a native American replete with war paint. The race bending and gender bending works beautifully and adds more novelty to the film. Here is a complete cast list:

Zachry, et al – Tom Hanks
Luisa Rey, et al – Halle Berry
Timothy Cavendish, et al – Jim Broadbent
Nurse Noakes, et al – Hugo Weaving
Adam Ewing, et al – Jim Sturgess
Sonmi-451, et al – Doona Bae
Robert Frobischer, et al – Ben Whishaw
Kupaka, et al – Keith David
Rufus Sixsmith, et al – James D’Arcy
Madame Horrox, et al – Susan Sarandon
Kona Chief, et al – Hugh Grant
With: Xun Zhou, David Gyasi, Robert Fyfe, Martin Wuttke, Robin Morrissey, Brody Lee, Ian Van Temperley, Amanda Walker, Ralph Riach, Andrew Havill, Tanja de Wendt, Raeven Lee Hanan.

Be prepared for a mental work-out that ends with a large emotional payoff.


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