Cloud Atlas is an incredible, beautiful, and deep-thinking film. The only side-effect during and shortly after watching it is developing a headache just trying to understand each story and how they are all connected.
The best way to understand this film is that its major theme is reincarnation. As one character says, “When one door closes, another one opens.” It is a famous quote, usually referring to one’s opportunities in life; however, in this instance, it is meant that in death you’ll find a new beginning. It became a revelation for me, seeing this quote in a new light.
During the course of the film, you assume it is a compilation of several different stories, but as it progresses, the film starts to reveal that in fact all these characters, or rather their souls, influence each other in some way and it is really just one story about their souls’ journey through the ages. How they live during one lifetime determines the type of person they’ll become in the next.
Before walking into this movie, I had very high expectations. While it didn’t leave me disappointed, I had a bit of a head spin. Some scenes come in short bursts, which is a bit jarring at first and you miss the characters you begin to adore when the film moves to another thread in the story. Each scene becomes a puzzle piece and your mind is constantly working, trying to connect them. As well, you are trying to understand what the characters’ life paths have been, remember what stage someone’s soul is currently at, and how they are all connected to each other. There is a lot to take in. This film is truly for the deep thinkers.
There has been some controversy revolving around the film, too. Some people disapprove of white actors taking on characters of other ethnicities as well as vice versa. While I completely understand people’s reservations, it may also mean you haven’t seen the film in its entirety yet. Not only are actors transforming into other ethnicities, they’re also transformed into good or bad characters and even the opposite gender. For example, Hugo Weaving plays a female caretaker at a nursing home and Halle Berry plays an Asian male doctor in a futuristic world (which I didn’t realize until the credits rolled).
There’s no question that the acting is superb. I was blown away by each actor, as they not only played multiple characters during the course of the film, they succeeded in making each character believable and vastly different from their previous character. Ultimately, I believe it is necessary for the same actors to transform into different characters for such a grand-scale film. The story is already so intricate that I believe having the same actor play different characters, whether they are good or bad, female or male, or even a different race is helpful. You may not recognize them at first, but when you do, you begin to understand that everyone is connected, regardless of whether they have a big or smaller part to play in each other’s lives.
In my personal opinion, I feel like I would need to watch this a few more times to catch the subtle touches in the film. Also, I highly recommend you stick around to watch the credits as they name the actors and show all the characters they played. It may just surprise you. Sometimes, the make-up was so well done I didn’t realize who had played the part.
I am proudly giving this film 4.5 out of 5 and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys stories of reincarnation, wants to expand their mind, or simply have a greater appreciation for actors willing to push the boundaries in film.