Review: Cloud Atlas (2012)

As you’ve most likely already heard, Cloud Atlas is a work of unparalleled ambition – a labor of love so adherent to detail and every intricacy of its source material that the simplicity at its core is easily lost among it all. Equal parts visual feast and a semi-poignant, half-existential-half-spiritual if grandiose rumination on the ideas of karma and rebirth, the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer have simultaneously crafted a wildly polarizing and wonderfully engrossing work that’s sure to leave its mark on the world.

As much as I covered throughout that opening passage, I assure you that there’s much more to discuss. For the uninformed, Cloud Atlas is essentially a series of vignettes that do and don’t exist in the same vein of interconnectivity we’ve seen as of late. While all of the disparate story arcs – scattered across several different time periods – predictably come to a head, the ideas at the film’s core are much loftier than what we’re accustomed to. Like I briefly mentioned, David Mitchell’s novel frequently touches upon the idea of karmic rebirth, more specifically that of a kindness committed determining the type of person you’ll be upon recurring reincarnations.

Whether this coincides with your belief system or not is completely irrelevant, as it’s the directors’ ability to deftly weave this seemingly infinite amount of material together that holds your attention. Yes, some bits are better than others, whether it be by way of emotional weight or plain entertainment, however the sheer scale of the entire production is far and away worth the price of admission alone even if the character-hopping among cast members becomes a bit distracting.

In summary, Cloud Atlas encompasses so much that there’s undoubtedly a lot to love and a lot to hate. While I personally found myself enamored by a vast majority of this cinematic feat, some elements are foreseeably washed out and generally lack the sense of purpose others do by way of narrative and straight up emotional substance. The central message may be as clear as day, and although it takes a while for the film to come right out and convey it, the road travelled sends us on a journey unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. As an artistic triumph steeped wonderfully in its meticulous attention to detail, Cloud Atlas fits the bill admirably despite its mostly forgivable shortcomings.


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