26 October 2012 | TheHighVoltageMessiah
Quite an achievement
"Cloud Atlas" is nearly three hours in length, but I wasn't bored for a minute. The film alternates between six very different stories quite seamlessly, creating an exhilarating experience. It's part sci-fi, part historical drama, part love story, part comedy. Any number of things could have gone wrong with the film. All the different genres it brings together might have failed to coherently mesh. But they did, and it's something to see.
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 – separated by prejudice and misfortune from his lover, a man named Sixsmith. 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.
Linking these stories together are the simple thematic elements of love, compassion, and a love for liberty. The correspondence between the composer Robert Frobisher and Sixsmith depicts the plain beauty of love as well as any film I have seen, as do 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 a great job in their multiple roles. You can care for Tom Hanks one moment as a villager in a future Hawaii, and then revile him in the next scene where he plays a truly despicable doctor. The best 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.
Everything in "Cloud Atlas" comes together to create a film I found thought-provoking and highly entertaining. I don't hesitate to recommend it.