Majestic “Cloud Atlas” Soars.

cloud-atlas-movie-poster-imagesThe luke­warm, almost embar­rassed reviews that Cloud Atlas has been get­ting are, to put it mild­ly, baf­fling. It is in every sense of the word a won­der to behold.

It’s easy to see why one might approach it with an air of scep­ti­cism. First, there’s the cast. Tom Han­ks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant and Jim Broadbent. 

Then there’s the sprawl­ing nature of the nar­ra­tive. Par­al­lel sto­ries set in six dif­fer­ent time frames; on a 19th cen­tu­ry sea voy­age, in 1930s Eng­land, 1970s San Fran­cis­co, con­tem­po­rary Lon­don, a Blade Run­ner-esqe Seoul in 2144, and in a post apoc­a­lyp­tic, stone age future world.

And then there’s the fact that it is direct­ed by three dif­fer­ent peo­ple, Andy and – now – Lana Wachows­ki, and Tom Tyk­w­er. All three of whom have had a mixed record of late. 

v-for-vendetta-page-162464The for­mer pair con­quered the world with The Matrix in 1999. After the inevitable and inevitably dis­ap­point­ing sequels (both in ’03), they redeemed them­selves with the sur­re­al­ly over­looked V For Vendet­ta. But they fol­lowed that with Speed Rac­er.

Tyk­w­er con­quered the indie world with Run Lola Run in 1998. But Heav­en (’02) and Per­fume (’06) were curi­ous­ly ill defined. And The Inter­na­tion­al (’09) was lit­tle more than com­pe­tent. And starred Clive Owen. Real­ly?

So a degree of sus­pi­cion when approach­ing Cloud Atlas was per­fect­ly under­stand­able — you can see the trail­er here. How any­one could cling on to that scep­ti­cism after the open­ing ten min­utes though is beyond me. I spent the rest of the film wait­ing for it to sink into what I pre­sumed would soon be inevitable chaos. But it nev­er hap­pened. It’s a won­der to behold from start to finish.

Han­ks, Berry, Grant (espe­cial­ly) and Broad­bent have nev­er been bet­ter, and are joined by Hugo Weav­ing, the frankly edi­ble Ben Whishaw and Susan Saran­don, all of whom inhab­it their mul­ti­ple roles with com­pelling ease. 

halle_berry_sareeThere is unsur­pris­ing­ly a minor blot on the mul­ti­lay­ered copy­book. Tom Han­ks’ thank­ful­ly fleet­ing stab at a Dublin accent is to say the least remark­able. Come back Tom and Nicole, all is for­giv­en. And there are per­haps one or two sur­plus lines where char­ac­ter muse redun­dant­ly on déjà vu.

But that aside, the whole thing hangs togeth­er with an impres­sive, indeed infec­tious cohe­sion. And the big themes on the evils of prej­u­dice and greed, and the lib­er­at­ing pow­er and uni­fy­ing poten­tial of the arts are deft­ly han­dled. Instead of hec­tor­ing and annoy­ing, the result­ing film sweeps you along and up.

More than any­thing else, this is a film. It’s fan­tas­ti­cal­ly tac­tile. And for once, the dig­i­tal effects and CGI are used spar­ing­ly, and in ser­vice to the sto­ry. So if at all you can, go and see it in the cin­e­ma. It’s majestic.

Sign up for a sub­scrip­tion right or below and I shall keep you post­ed every week on All the Very Best and Worst in Film, Tele­vi­sion and Music!