HBO News Blog

Movie Review: Cloud Atlas

By Eleonora Iafano on Oct 24, 2013 to HBO News, New Movies

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Confusion. This is what I felt at many times during the course of this movie. While I enjoy period piece movies, this was something altogether entirely different. The cast is a solid one: Jim Broadbent, Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, Keith David, James D’Arcy, Doona Bae and Ben Whishaw.

There are, to the best of my recollection, six different time periods that the movie skips back and forth to. Prevalent themes such as love lost, love found, success, fear, good versus evil and the thought of our current lives being connected with past and future ones are woven all throughout.

Watching this movie made me feel anxious and a bit frustrated. I felt like I couldn’t really focus because of the constant jumping in between plots. However, that being said, I will do my best to try and breakdown the movie’s story line in smaller chunks, so as not to overwhelm any readers.

In the south Pacific, we see a few characters on their respective travels. Adam is a young lawyer who is completing some sort of business deal for his father-in-law. Dr. Goose is a really shady doctor who believes in slowly poisoning Adam, while stealing his belongings. There is a stowaway on the ship who ends up saving Adam’s life and in a roundabout way, exposing the cruel and dastardly acts of Dr. Goose. Once the stowaway, Autua, also turns out to be an extremely Movies_CloudAtlas3skilled sailor and helps to save Adam from an almost certain death of internal poisoning. Adam becomes better, he returns back home to his wife and they become active participants in the anti-slavery movement.

The next major storyline takes place in England and Scotland, involving a young musician named Robert, an elderly reclusive songwriter named Vivian, Vivian’s wife Jocasta and Rufus, Robert’s partner. Robert and Vivian begin to compose music together, while Robert helps to bring life to the music by writing it. Vivian’s wife, Jocasta, takes an interest in Robert and they have a secret, sexual relationship. The main piece of writing that Robert composes (and Vivian tries to take credit for) is called “The Cloud Atlas Sextet.” In the midst of an argument, Robert wants to leave and take the music and lyrics with him. Vivian informs him that nobody will be leaving and that he did a little research to see who was really living under his roof – he has found out that Robert has lived a life of scandal, having many sexual relationships with other men and prostitutes – and in the music circle of the time – such a scandal will damage a reputation. Reputation is everything – but Robert gets the last hurrah – he shoots Vivian, killing him, and then turning the gun on himself, before his partner, Rufus, arrives.

The third storyline involves San Francisco in the 1970s, where Rufus, now older, has a huge secret. He meets a journalist, Louisa, in an elevator while they encounter a temporary power outage. Rufus is a nuclear physicist and has proof of a major report on the safety of nuclear power. A man named Hooks, is a Movies_CloudAtlas4slimy, almost perverted jerk, who runs a nuclear power plant, tries to pawn off Luisa. She meets Isaac, another scientist at the plant. He covers for her, gives her proof of Rufus’s report. (Rufus was assassinated before Luisa got the chance to speak to him to find out what secret he was hiding) Isaac is on board a plane when the unfortunate happens – he is killed due to a bomb going off on the plane.

Back in jolly old’ England during present day, Timothy, a publicist, has a stroke of luck when one of his clients, Dustin, murders a book critic at a public party. Unfortunately, his luck runs out when a debt of his gets paid in and he doesn’t have the fund to pay it off. He has a very wealthy brother, whom he turns to help for. His brother has other ideas and tricks his brother Timothy by putting him into an old age home. Some pretty things take place – including meeting a few fellow seniors, a really nasty nurse and an escape plan that was pretty ingenious (with Timothy surmising that he will write up a screenplay and have famous actors Michael Caine and Sir Lawrence Olivier portray himself), which has a climactic scene in a bar. He does reminisce about his lost love, Ursula and if there was still a fleeting chance to reclaim that love. At the end of this storyline, not only has he escaped, but finds himself lucky in love, once again, with Ursula.

In a futuristic world called Neo-Seoul, an engineered woman named Sonmi 451 lives a life of basic slavery. There are many like her and day in, day out, they serve without question or thought, no matter how they are treated on the job. One clone rebels and assaults a patron and is executed. Sonmi 451 had taken part in watching a forbidden movie clip with that clone and wants something more from her life. She is given a chance to escape from a true blood man named Hae Joo. There is a lMovie_CloudAtlas1ot of fighting, doubting and questioning as to how the society works. Sonmi 451 is stripped of her ignorance, as she finds out what really goes on behind the scenes – all clone workers are at one point or another, executed and fed back to themselves, as they are a cheap source of food – protein – for the public. Horrifying. Sonmi 451 is seen speaking with an archivist to reveal the truth of what is going on. She wanted to let the public know exactly what was going on. For her actions, some people would say she is brave. She is executed shortly after her interview with the archivist is concluded.

The final storyline is set in a time that appears to be in the future, on a big island, many years after “some sort of fall” – perhaps some sort of plague or weather force that destroyed much of civilization. The people who live on the island appear primitive and speak a hybrid language of English, what seems to be like Cajun or Creole dialect and slang. They live simple lives and worship simple Gods. They live in fear of a cannibalistic tribe, the Konas, which terrorizes their simple lifestyle. A goat herder, Zachary, is plagued by visions of a demon like man, who goads him on and terrorizes him to give into his fears. Zachary is tormented by the fact that while out in the forest one day, the Konas came and killed his nephew and his nephew’s son. Scared and traumatized, he is skeptical. A woman, Meronym, from an advanced tribe, visits the island, needing to do some research and needs to find a research station. There is a mountain on the big island, which the people feel is cursed by a devil. Zachary’s niece becomes sick and only one thing can save her – Meronym’Movie_CloudAtlas2s skills. Meronym heals her in exchange for going up the mountain top. Once there, Zachary has visions of the demonic man and is plagued by it. The two of them return to the village to find almost everyone has been killed by the Konas. His niece survived by hiding and they are seen boarding the ship with Meronym.

Wow. Jumping back and forth between time and space left me feeling a bit flustered and at times shocked. The musical piece of “The Cloud Atlas Sextet” was hauntingly beautiful. There was some funny moments but overall, the one thing that impressed me the most was the visual effects. I’d say that this is one movie that is best left on the shelf.

Judge for yourself by seeing CLOUD ATLAS premiering Saturday, October 26 at 8:00pm.

  • Eleonora Iafano

    I’m glad you enjoyed the movie. For me, I guess it just wasn’t something that really captured my attention. However, my take on what the most prevalent theme was how everything from the past, present and future was connected. Some call that fate, others call it destiny. I am a big believer in fate and destiny and sometimes, people’s past/current/future lives are bound together by an unknown thread. When I think about the actual title “Cloud Atlas,” what really comes to mind here is that an atlas is a series of maps that show continents and bodies of water and somehow they can be connected by travelling by water, air or land. The word cloud makes me think of something puffy and soft, that can stretch out through vast distances. So, the whole theme of time travel and how people were connected in that respect makes sense. At least to humble, little me!

  • Marc Price

    I thought this movie was beautiful and not at all confusing. The thing about this movie is that at its simplest form it’s a love story between two people for whom it takes literal lifetimes to be together. At it’s most complex it’s 6 different people tied together by the same theme. That theme is what should dispel any sense of confusion there is. Everybody wants their freedom in whatever way they can get it in whatever time and place they are. Because that theme is prevalent in every story, the individual plots are simple to grasp, and it paints the picture of the overarching story of two souls waiting to be united or kept apart. Every plot is practically the same, though they do tend to jump around in terms of what style and genre they are. But that theme of freedom keeps it all tied together, and that’s what allows the movie to jump around between the different stories. It’s not that confusing at all, at least it’s no more confusing than Inception was. /endrant

    …I really really liked this movie.

  • Eleonora Iafano

    Apologies – I meant to type that Adam is completing a transaction for his father in law, not his father.










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