In one of the most expensive independent films ever made with a budget over $100,000, Tom Hanks and Halle Berry headline a stellar cast, each playing 6 roles in 6 separate but connected storylines spread across 5 centuries in the epic movie that is “Cloud Atlas”. Filmed in spectacularly beautiful locations around the world with a storyline that keeps you alert, following every nuance and detail is necessary to unravel but connect the separate plots that seem to have nothing in common except the common threads that continually are mentioned:
“From the womb to the tomb, our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”
One theme that repeats throughout the movie is that of slavery, whether it is the abject, raw slavery depicted on a plantation and the slave trade being conducted on board a sailing ship in the 1800’s, or the concept of man being enslaved by his dependence on oil and the struggle between forces that would try to sever that dependence and those who want to continue to perpetuate it for the sake of profits. Even far into the future, a race of “fabricants” (clones raised for the purpose of being servers for a gigantic restaurant chain that serves everyone their food and entertainment) seek to cut the enslaving collar on their necks that ensures their continued service or they pay the ultimate price of death. One reluctant fabricant, Sonmi-451 is elevated to the status of being an enlightened goddess after she makes simple but honest observations about their plight and the unfairness imposed upon her and her race by the ruling class known as “purebloods”, those born of natural means.
For the following generations, her words were their gospel, after the world went through a devastating nuclear holocaust that poisoned the water and the atmosphere, leaving the survivors suffering from radiation poisoning a hundred years later, and looking for a means to escape.
The Cloud Atlas Sextet is another connecting thread throughout the time periods, composed by Robert Frobisher during his employment as a musical composing aide to aging and wealthy composer, Vyvyan Ayrs, at his Chateau outside of Bruges, Belgium in the 1930’s, chronicled in a series of letters he scribes to his gay lover, Sixsmith.
To try to give you a head start in understanding and being able to keep up with the various plots, here is a listing of the various characters from each time frame in the movie and who plays the roles:
The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing (circa 1850’s)
Jim Sturgess as Adam Ewing
Tom Hanks as Dr. Henry Goose
David Gyasi as Autua
Doona Bae as Tilda Ewing
Hugo Weaving as Haskell Moore
Jim Broadbent as Captain Molyneux
Hugh Grant as Reverend Gilles Horrox
Keith David as Kupaka
Susan Sarandon as Madame Horrox
Halle Berry as Native Woman
Ben Whishaw as Rafael
Letters from Zedelghem
Ben Whishaw as Robert Frobisher
Halle Berry as Jocasta Ayrs
James D’Arcy as Rufus Sixsmith
Jim Broadbent as Vyvyan Ayrs
Tom Hanks as a Hotel Manager
Hugo Weaving as Tadeusz Kesselring
Hugh Grant as Hotel Heavy
Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery (circa 1980’s)
Halle Berry as Luisa Rey
Tom Hanks as Issac Sachs
Hugo Weaving as Bill Smoke
Keith David as Joe Napier
David Gyasi as Lester Rey
Doona Bae as a Mexican Woman
James D’Arcy as Rufus Sixsmith
Hugh Grant as Lloyd Hooks
Ben Whishaw as Record Shop Owner
The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish (circa 2012)
Jim Broadbent as Timothy Cavendish
Tom Hanks as Dermot Hoggins
Jim Sturgess as Highlander
Hugo Weaving as Nurse Noakes
Ben Whishaw as Georgette
Hugh Grant as Denholme Cavendish
Susan Sarandon as Ursula
Halle Berry as Indian Party Guest
An Orison of Sonmi~451 (circa 2144)
Doona Bae as Sonmi-451
Jim Sturgess as Hae-Joo Chang
Hugo Weaving as Boardman Mephi
James D’Arcy as Wing-027
Zhou Xun as Yoona-939
Halle Berry as Ovid
Jim Broadbent as a Korean Musician
Keith David as General An-Kor Apis
Hugh Grant as Seer Rhee
Tom Hanks as Cavendish Look-a-Like Actor
Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin’ After (107 years after the fall)
Tom Hanks as Zachry
Halle Berry as Meronym
Jim Sturgess as Adam/Zachry Brother in Law
Hugo Weaving as Old Georgie
Susan Sarandon as Abbess
Hugh Grant as the Kona Chief
Jim Broadbent as a Prescient
Zhou Xun as Rose
Some memorable quotes from this epic movie experience:
“Our lives and our choices… Each encounter, suggest a new potential direction… Fear, belief, love… phenomenon that determine the course of our lives. These forces begin long before we are born, and continue after we perish.”- Tom Hanks as Doctor Goose.
Hugo Weaving’s character warns, “If you continue, you will find that your life amounts to nothing more than one drop in a limitless ocean,” Ewing responds, “Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?”
“There is a natural order to this world, and those who try to upend it do not fare well.” in a hauntingly similar voice from “The Matrix”, that of Hugo Weaving. And like his role in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, one of the characters he plays is a big burly, probably lesbian nurse, Nurse Noakes.
Some reviewers have made a big deal about the casting of non-Asian actors to play Asians and using what is being termed “yellow-face” to make white actors appear to be Asian. But they also make Halle Berry into a white woman, an Indian woman, and much more gender bending and racial transformation, but it seems to be that it is essential in order to successfully carry through the basic premise of the movie.
“Cloud Atlas” covers many genres from comedy to drama including Sci-Fi adventure, futuristic, and historical. The musical score is eloquently matched to the on-screen imagery, and the editors have dome a masterful job of combining the work of the three writers/directors, Lana (formerly Larry) Wachowski, Andy Wachowski (from the Matrix), and Tom Tykwer- who dared to take on the challenge of bringing David Mitchell’s 2004 award winning novel to the big screen even though many had said it could never be done.
They indeed have done it, and have done it wonderfully, and even though it took almost 3 hours to tell the story, it is worth every minute!
Please comment below and let me know what you think!