If there’s anything to say about the new Wachowski’s and Tom Twyker film, Cloud Atlas, is that it delivers one of the most ambitious films of the year and the largest film that all three filmmakers have ever attempted. Based off of David Mitchell’s 2004 novel of the same, the film focuses on telling six different stories throughout time, from the mid nineteenth century to the far future, that shows various characters that are reincarnated over and over again. From different genders and to various ages, each of these characters are confronted with systemic institutions and universal forces that oppose their way of life and must do whatever they can in order to save not only themselves, but their very souls. With an large all star cast and a production that shot all over the world, Cloud Atlas is a three hour epic that dares to challenge people and takes plenty of risks in order to tell a grandiose tale that manages to deliver most of its attempts.
The film is very much reminiscent of the previous works of the Wachowski’s and Twyker, especially the themes of fate and causality. Unlike The Matrix and Run Lola Run, which work these themes effectively, Cloud Atlas fully utilizes these ideas completely throughout all of its stories, no matter how small or large in scope. This is one of the reasons the film really resonated with me, that minor revolutionary actions on a small scale, against even a single person, could lead to full on revolution in another lifetime. This focus on causality makes the narrative flow seamlessly, especially towards the later half of the film. I felt that the beginning of the film is somewhat stunted from jumping back and forth, especially when a story gets engaging, the gears are switched and we end up in another timeline. This might have been intentional by the filmmakers, but to see the later end of the film show off incredible match cuts, thematic cuts and other editing elements that make the film feel seamless, it just makes me wonder of this could have been done throughout. While I may be complaining about this now, it might have just been the first viewing of this epic film that one would need many viewings to see all of the challenges and complexity this narrative proposes.
Cloud Atlas is a brave film, that challenges issues against gender, age, love, freedom and other issues that affect people everyday. I certainly appreciate that the film takes risks in both content and approach to deliver something that is clearly one of the best films of the year. While most people might be confused and muddled about what the Wachowski’s and Twyker are trying to present with Cloud Atlas, the fact that a film like it exists, affirms that bold, epic films, that aspire to challenge both audiences and filmmakers have a place in the world and stories like this are worth telling.