Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas is something of a cinematic curiosity. It is incredibly ambitious and deftly executed, weaving together six disparate tales with similar themes of oppression and rebellion, each told with the same handful of actors playing the key roles in each scenario. Set in different locations and in eras ranging from 1849 up through 2321, the movie serves up everything from a single slave earning his freedom on a sailing ship to a genetically engineered hostess inspiring a full-on societal revolt. But even when the all-star filmmaking team of the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer has three hours to play with, not one of the half-dozen narratives can be particularly deep or overwhelmingly original. They have, however, fashioned an enormous event movie that pushes technique—dramatic as well as purely technical—into bold new territory.

As we should expect of something so new, Cloud Atlas asks a lot of viewers. It’s a good half-hour before these apparently unrelated story lines begin to intersect, and the subject matter balances gritty, realistic, R-rated drama with two distinct flavors of science fiction, which some audiences just don’t like. Is this movie just too far ahead of its time? the slower stretches, I found myself trying to figure out which stars were playing which roles in each time period, a challenge made easier by the awesome clarity of the 2.4:1 image. The complexion of each face is discernible from another, the weave of every outfit imparts a palpable verisimilitude, and we can read along with the text on virtual computer screens. The range of colors is striking as well, most notably the candy colors of Seoul of the future. The quality is all the more impressive for the sheer size of this movie, packed onto a single disc.

We could fairly describe the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack as three-dimensional, with a generous distribution of cues to the left and right mains in conjunction with the surrounds. So wherever we are, we feel like we are in a teeming environment, including both real and urban jungles. In addition to some delicate resonance off behind us, there are some true sonic jolts and quick demo-worthy moments, in addition to a flying motorcycle chase worth replaying.

The extras are handily presented as seven Focus Points, almost an hour total, working to demystify both the complex movie on screen but also the Herculean behind-the-scenes efforts. A DVD and an HDX UltraViolet Digital Copy are bundled with the Blu-ray.

Studio: Warner Bros., 2012
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio Format: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Length: 172 mins.
MPAA Rating: R
Directors: Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski
Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent

acpryor's picture

I'm confused as to the movie ratings. Does the "Picture" category represent "quality of picture" or you're overall rating of the movie itself (story/acting/etc)? Seems like most movie reviews in the recent issue gave out lots of 4-5 stars and many of those movies were certainly not 4-5 stars.


NoHoR56's picture

"Picture" refers to the quality of the image only. (Just as "Sound" refers to the quality of the audio.) This being an audio-video publication they are focused on the technical quality of movies. For reviews of the movies themselves would be a better source.