With three co-writer/directors, a star-studded international cast and six interconnected stories, maybe it's not a surprise that “Cloud Atlas” is such a surprising cinematic creation: a big-budget spectacle and weighty art-house drama all in one.
The Wachowski siblings (“The Matrix” movies) and Tom Tykwer (“The International”) not only accomplished the seemingly impossible task of adapting David Mitchell's acclaimed and intricate novel, they managed to keep the far-flung interlocking narratives cohesive, engrossing and meaningful.
With Oscar winners Tom Hanks and Halle Berry leading the game cast, the almost three-hour film spans centuries, continents and cinematic genres, starting out as a sweeping period epic set in 1849 and winding around to a post-apocalyptic quest set in 2346. In between, it morphs into a tragic artist's tale in pre-World War II Europe, a gritty 1970s thriller in San Francisco, a broad comedy in present-day London and a sleek, futuristic action thriller in 2144 Neo Seoul, Korea.
As with the book, some of the film's storylines are more engaging than others, and the movie is so densely packed that multiple viewings are recommended, especially for people who haven't read the novel. Viewers must pay attention to successfully follow the stories, but the film is so cannily edited that it just sweeps willing watchers along from one time and place to the next.