Very rarely does a film come around that really forces me to think about what I'm seeing. In a day and age where remakes and sequels reign supreme, original movies like Inception are always refreshing. Cloud Atlas, the new epic by Lana and Andy Wachowski (The Matrix, V for Vendetta), is easily one of the most compelling movies I've seen in a couple of years and, above all else, strives to be different. I applaud it for that.
In a nutshell, the complex plot of Cloud Atlas explores how several different lives from different generations ranging from the 19th century to the distant future are all connected and how simple acts of kindness can have major impacts in the future. I can't really go into it any further without spoiling the plot but I will say that it comes through. It took about 30 minutes for me to get my bearings on how the film works (it jumps between decades very frequently) but I enjoyed each of Cloud Atlas' six stories quite a bit. They are just different enough to keep you interested, but also have many of the same themes.
Cloud Atlas features an ensemble cast including Tom Hanks, Hugo Weaving, Halle Berry, and a variety of others where the same actors play several different characters. For instance, Hanks' characters range from a Irish bouncer in the present day to a heroic post-apocalyptic farmer. Makeup plays a huge role in the film as many actors and actresses play characters of different races and even genders. While it can be a little jarring at first, it all has a specific role in the film and it's really cool to recognize certain actors in the different storylines.
If you're a little lost at how exactly the movie works, don't fret. I was constantly thinking throughout the film to try and follow the complex plot. Cloud Atlas is a film that's not for everyone. Much like Inception, it throws you into the workings of a very complex story and doesn't hold your hand. That said, the payoff for following it all the way through is high. If you stick with Cloud Atlas, you won't be disappointed once you figure out how all the stories intertwine. Each story kept me interested (especially the very cool future story, which has many subtle references to The Matrix) and I was never bored following the plot. I couldn't wait to see what would happen next.
As I said earlier, Cloud Atlas isn't a film for everyone. Those looking for simple fun like Dredd 3D should stay away from this movie. But if you enjoy movies that make you think, you'll love Cloud Atlas like I did. Seeing all the stories come together at the very end had me cheering inside and they are all very well done, each given equal screen time as the others. While the makeup isn't perfect and there are a few bits of corny dialogue here and there, Cloud Atlas is a modern day marvel that should be applauded for its uniqueness and diversity. I give it a 4.5 out of 5.
Jordan Ray is a junior journalism major from Houston, Texas.