Cloud Atlas review

The Matrix meets Perfume. Sort of

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Artful and awe-inspiring, laughable and lamentable, Cloud Atlas is, to put it mildly, bonkers.

A dizzying, three-hour adaptation of David Mitchell’s era-hopping 2004 novel, it spans time and space to tells six separate but interlinked tales that begin in the Pacific Ocean in 1849 and conclude in post-apocalyptic Hawaii in the 24th Century.

Casting actors in multiple roles, the Wachowskis and their German co-director Tom Tykwer deserve praise for attempting to replicate Mitchell’s literary tapestry.

Cloud Atlas is one of the most structurally deft and brilliantly edited films in recent memory, with the Wachowskis bringing the visual panache of The Matrix and Perfume man Tykwer his feel for character and drama.

Inevitably, some stories work better than others. Ben Whishaw’s 1936-set role aiding Jim Broadbent’s composer is rich and rewarding.

But when Broadbent re-appears as a publisher in present-day London, tormented by an Irish-gangster author (Tom Hanks), the result is cringe-inducing.

In the future, the Blade Runner -like vision of ‘Neo-Seoul’ is dazzling. But life on Hawaii with Hanks’ tribesman and Halle Berry’s Earth Mother is tedious.

As the film cuts back and forth, connections come to the fore.

With actors popping up everywhere and even changing race (at one point James D’Arcy goes Asian), the emphasis is on universality and interconnected souls. It’s a gimmick that can distract and introduce unintentional humour.

But mostly Cloud Atlas will keep you enraptured, for its sheer dexterity alone.

Freelance writer

James Mottram is a freelance film journalist, author of books that dive deep into films like Die Hard and Tenet, and a regular guest on the Total Film podcast. You'll find his writings on GamesRadar+ and Total Film, and in newspapers and magazines from across the world like The Times, The Independent, The i, Metro, The National, Marie Claire, and MindFood.