Review: “Cloud Atlas”

Image for post
Image for post

During the AMC Theatres presentation of “The Dark Knight Trilogy”, my friends and I took a quick trip to the nearest gas station, as my head was killing me and I needed some tylenol. In the car, one of them asked a pretty random question, regarding my relationship with god. I could’ve made a joke about him getting ready to kidnap us, but I decided to answer honestly; “I’m not christian, I’m just Bill.”

Who are we, where are we going and what is the point of it all? Boiled down, my belief (I prefer idea) is that we have barely scratched the surface with understanding THIS reality — how can we possibly understand OTHER ones? Honestly, I feel more comfortable explaining myself in movie form. If you care to, check out “Groundhog Day”, “Defending Your Life” and, now playing across the country, “Cloud Atlas”.

Not sure about watching that last one? Think of it as “Magnolia” — one large story made up of multiple tales — but on an epic scale. Think of it as several different movies (a comedy, a sci fi thriller, a period piece, a drama, etc) told forward and sideways, bleeding into one another and making one massive film. Think of it as having the ambition of a D.W. Griffith or Abel Gance picture. Think of it as maybe…well, having to think afterwards. You still want to shell out money for that Rob Cohen “movie”?

It’s amazing to me that such a chance could be taken on such an incredible story. Hollywood didn’t have much faith in it, so the filmmakers had to go and raise the funds themselves! Making a movie in this manner, based on a book deemed unfilmmable, is either a sign of madness or courage. Perhaps both.

Some of the madness does show up on screen. We see Hugh Grant in warrior paint as some future scape headhunter, Tom Hanks as a bald British gangster/author and an Asian Hugo Weaving. At some point during production, I bet hesitation was felt by the producers.

But, all of the courage shows up as well. We get a wonderfully heartbreaking romance between two young men, a woman in the role of a messiah, a new language spoken, a lengthy duration and, most important, questions planted into the minds of the audience. At some point during production, I bet a sense of pride was felt by the crew.

Some people are dubbing this as some kind of a bomb, having cost so much, and making so little thus far. Some people are dubbing this as pretentious rubbish, and the worst thing everyone involved could’ve been part of. I will respond with one quote from the film:

When told that there is an order to the world, and that any attempts to shake it would just be a drop in an ocean, a character responds “What is an ocean but a multitude of drops?” This was probably made knowing that it wouldn’t make much money, and with the hope that it will give pause to people who watch it.

The friend who asked me about god is an atheist. I’m still just Bill. To me, the universe is one long movie, made up of smaller storylines, leading to one big finish. It might not be presented in the most consumable of ways, it might shift in tone and it might be ridiculous at times, but trust me; it’s all important, and it’ll all make sense in the end.

5/5 *’s

Originally published at on October 28, 2012.

Written by

Independent film critic. Progressive po’ boy, moviegoing romantic. SEFCA member, 🍅 - approved. Newsletter at

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store