TIFF Movie Review – Cloud Atlas (2012)

Cloud Atlas, 2012.

Directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski.

Starring Tom Hanks, Hugo Weaving, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, Jim Broadbent, Keith David, James D’Arcy, Xun Zho, Doona Bae and Zhu Zhu.


The actions of individuals influence the past, present and future lives of others.

From beneath the stars an ancient Tom Hanks tells a campfire story which spirals into several different tales encompassing different timeframes. The overriding theme is that one’s destiny is determined by the actions of others which leads to the exploration of reincarnation; actors such as Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Tom Hanks, Jim Broadbent, and Susan Sarandon are given multiple roles to play so to best illustrate the idea. Hanks plays both good and bad characters while Weaving portrays villains throughout the production.

Among the narratives are: a crusading 1970s journalist investigates the corrupt actions of an oil company, a Korean table server clone gains consciousness to spark a revolution, a lawyer travels on a 19th century ship with an important document, the breakout of a group of patients from a senior home, a music composer starts to create music again with the help of an assistant, and a highly technological society seeks the help of a primitive tribe to send out a signal of help. Andy and Lana Wachowski have been influenced by their own works such as The Matrix (1999) and Speed Racer (2008) as well as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), Shaft (1971), and The Lord of the Rings (2001 to 2003). Broadbent provides some necessary comic relief in particular with the seniors trying to escape, Berry is at her best as an investigative journalist trying to live up to her father’s reputation, and the naivety of Doona Bae in the clone section results in a lot of empathy from the audience.

Unlike with their previous films, the Wachowskis collaborated with another filmmaker, Tom Tykwer (Perfume) and to their credit a uniformed look is achieved. The boundaries of production design and visual effects are pushed to create fully realized worlds whether in the past, present or the future. When it comes to technology computer screens levitate and resemble contact eye lenses. Dark elements are explored such as cannibalism which results in some rather unsettling imagery. Sound effects and dialogue combined with brisk crosscutting result in seamless transitions from scenes and storylines adding to the sense of interconnection. The sheer ambition and scope of the cinematic adaptation is impressive and completely realized on the big screen. Working against Cloud Atlas at the box office is that it requires multiple viewings to understand as well as includes some gruesome subject matter; however, over time the epic may well grow in popularity.

Flickering Myth Rating: Film ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★ ★

Trevor Hogg

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