November 26, 2014
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Cloud Atlas
Don Fowler
4 stars
Reviewer's Rating:
Tom Hanks and Halle Berry portray multiple characters in "Cloud Atlas."

(Provocative, overpowering epic)

One thing is for certain: "Cloud Atlas" is the most provocative movie of the year. It has been labeled both "pretentious" and "profound" by critics and audiences.

David Mitchell's best-selling novel has been adapted for the screen in a three-hour overpowering epic filled with magnificent performances and sweeping cinematography.

Is it hard to follow at times? Yes, but stay with it and it all comes together in a powerful conclusion.

Lana and Andy Wachowski have taken the six stories in the novel and interwoven them, sometimes with a bit of confusion and at other times with precision, using incredible makeup to allow actors to play a variety of roles. (Stay for the beginning of the credits to see the different roles that Tom Hanks and others play. Some will surprise you).

So, what's it all about? Well, a lot of things, like personal freedom, survival, connectedness, love, reincarnation, consequences and the circle of life.

The six stories could all be a movie in themselves, and they jump around at a whirlwind pace, losing you at times, but eventually connecting. The final hour is exciting and satisfying as the stories are resolved in a variety of ways, jumping rapidly from one situation and era to another.

If all this scares or confuses you, you are not alone. We like to see our movies without reading a lot about them beforehand so that we can enjoy the element of surprise and not be swayed by other critics. We did read up a bit on "Cloud Atlas,” which didn't help much, as it is almost impossible to describe.

Audiences will take many different things from it. More than the theory of reincarnation, we took that sense of connectedness, which manifests itself in a variety of different ways, places and times.

Tom Hanks and Halle Berry have the biggest roles and variety of characters, beginning with an ancient time (or is it the future?) and extending to the distant future. The final scene puts them as grandfather and grandmother in yet another sphere.

Jim Broadbent plays a pivotal role as the author of the "Cloud Atlas" symphony and a book publisher. He is also used as the narrator who ties together much of the narrative.

We jump, rapidly at times, from prehistoric times (or is it the future) to an adventure at sea in the 1840s, to a reporter's adventure in the 1970s, to two different futuristic societies, to the 1930s. The theme that we are all connected to others, whether past or present, can be interpreted in many different ways, but it is very evident in this movie.

In a moving conclusion to one of the stories involving slavery, one of the characters remarks, "We are more than a drop in the ocean; the ocean is made up of many drops."

“Cloud Atlas" is an ocean of a movie, made up of many drops. If you go to the movie with a clear mind and a desire to see it through, it will give you much to think about and discuss. If you are looking for a couple of hours of light entertainment, find something else.

Rated R, with violence, profanity, sex and nudity, but also love, compassion and humanity.


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