A different vision of the future is presented with a post-apocalyptic quest set around 2346, when human life and language have reverted to primitive states. In a Hawaiian village, Hanks plays the decent but cowardly goatherd Zachry, who becomes the reluctant guide to Meronym (Berry), an envoy of an advanced society on a secret mission.
“Cloud Atlas” moves so deftly among its half-dozen tales that it's hard to believe the film lasts nearly three hours. While its 500-year concept is rooted in reincarnation, people of all faiths can relate to its insights about the lasting effects of love and kindness, oppression and betrayal.
For all its groundbreaking achievements in storytelling, makeup and costume design, “Cloud Atlas” has its flaws. As with the book, some of the film's storylines are more engaging than others. While the race- and gender-bending among the cast, which also includes Susan Sarandon, Keith David and Hugo Weaving, is key to the conceit and fun to watch, it can be distracting. And the movie is just so densely packed that filmgoers may need multiple viewings to really digest it, especially if they haven't read the novel.
But in an era of repetitive sequels, remakes and blockbusters, “Cloud Atlas” offers a unique opportunity to see a meaningful, big-budget spectacle and not know exactly how the plot will unfurl from the moment the opening credits roll. Now that's visionary.
— Brandy McDonnell
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Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Sturgess, Jim Broadbent, Ben Wishaw, Doona Bae, James D'Arcy, Hugh Grant, Hugo Weaving, Keith David and Susan Sarandon. (Violence, language, sexuality/nudity and some drug use)