Cloud Atlas is the best movie that I have seen in a long time.
It is profound, artistic, unconventional, avant-garde, ambitious, smart, unique, brave, stimulating, epic, challenging, inspiring, transcendent and transcending. And brilliant… all at once.
…It has comedy, tragedy, suspense, drama, action and romance. (even farce)
It is intellectually challenging and spiritually rewarding. (It puts out all the clues that you need to find the treasure yet it makes you earn it.)
It is everything that a great film should be.
I found it refreshing not only intellectually but also spiritually.
I also found it addictive: I saw it once on Saturday and had to go watch it again on Sunday.
Cloud Atlas easily fits in my top 10 list of the best films that I have ever seen. So I have to let it sink, digest it slowly and watch it again a few years from now. If it still has the powerful effect that it has on me now, then it will end up on my top 3 best movies ever list. How stimulating.
I am sure that by now you are itching to ask me “Why? What’s the big deal?”
I can take the easy and safe road and say that this is simply my opinion. I can then quote Picasso who said that the worst thing one can do is try to explain art. Throw in the fact that it is always easier to write a critical rather than a positive review. (Just like it is easier to hurt someone rather than heal them or make them feel better.)
Still, though with just a couple of paragraphs, I am about to commit exactly that horrible crime against art – I will attempt to explain it. Sort of…
In addition to Picasso’s views on explaining art, Cloud Atlas is extremely hard to describe in its own right. You just have to see it and experience it for yourself. And you have to pay attention.
Anyway, let me start with some of the less controversial, more obvious features:
The movie has an absolutely fantastic music score and the actors’ make up is totally groundbreaking. I believe that it will be a strong Oscar contender in both of those categories and is worth your while even if it is just to see the make up and try guessing who is played by whom or hear the amazing music.
It is also uncontroversial that the film has a number of Oscar winning a-list actors working under the experienced guidance of the The Wachowskis – creators of The Matrix trilogy, and Tom Tykwer – the film-maker behind Run Lola Run. Thus, if you like their unique cinematic style and particular story-telling approaches you should definitely see Cloud Atlas for you are going to love it.
In terms of the plot the movie is also pretty unique. Named after its titular musical sextet, Cloud Atlas revolves around six stories which, like six musical instruments, weave into a single piece of harmony. Some will disagree, but for me another good reason to watch and like the film is the fact that in its 3 hours and 6 plots it manages to cover pretty much everything – comedy, tragedy, suspense, drama, action and romance. Even farce. It is philosophical, artistic and spiritual. In some ways it is nostalgic and in others it is futuristic. I believe that there is something for everyone in it. So, if you are like me, you will laugh and you will cry. You will learn something about the past but also about the future. Perhaps even about yourself.
The six narratives are spanning across the depths of time yet they unfold simultaneously, while the main film characters are moving in harmonic progressions through the centuries. The movie has profound, multi-layered meaning that isn’t instantly obvious. I believe that this can be one reason why many, perhaps most viewers will dismiss it.
Cloud Atlas also has a number of subtle, hidden references and messages that will reward people who watch it more than once and pay close attention to all details. I will limit myself to spelling out only the most obvious one – that we are all connected. It is a message about caring for each other. About how our paths in life connect, cross-over and impact each other through choice, action and consequence. It is about transcending conventions and breaking through limitations. About freedom, finding it and holding on tight to whatever it may mean to you. It is about never giving up and standing for what you believe, even if this means going against the “natural order to the world” and ultimately death:
“Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others. Past and present. And by each crime, and every kindness, we birth our future.” Sonmi-451
Cloud Atlas is a marvel of film-making and story-telling that will deliver more upon each viewing. It is extremely ambitious in its scope and scale and in that sense it is a huge step up from The Matrix. I really want this movie to be a huge blockbuster success. Yet I doubt it would happen. For if it did, it will mean that it didn’t challenge us hard enough. And my greatest reason to recommend watching this film is that it is as challenging as it is rewarding in a number of subtle though profound ways.
Movies are like music – we can all listen to the same tune but not all of us can actually hear it. Mozart speaks to some people. Beethoven to others. Bach takes a whole other level of appreciation. Likewise, many may watch Cloud Atlas but I suspect most of them will not really see and appreciate the profound, multi-layered meaning behind the film. Whatever the case may be, if Cloud Atlas speaks to you the way it does to me – enjoy it. If it doesn’t – don’t worry about it. It means nothing.
Socrates’ verdict: 11 out of 10. (Must see. More than once!)
Synopsis: From acclaimed filmmakers Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, and Andy Wachowski, the powerful and inspiring epic drama “Cloud Atlas” explores how the actions and consequences of individual lives impact one another throughout the past, the present and the future.
Action, mystery and romance weave dramatically through the story as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and a single act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire.
A revolution in the distant future.
P.S. Blog readers have already asked me about my best ever film list. I wouldn’t put too much weight on it but for those who insist here are some of the movies on that list in random order: