Cloud Atlas is a masterpiece.
I could ramble on all day about how much I loved this movie. It has everything: love, comedy, action, romance, mystery, drama, tension, horror and pure joy. Cloud Atlas will be written about and discussed for years even if it doesn’t do great business at the box office. Remember, many movies now considered to be masterpieces (e.g. Brazil, The Princess Bride, etc.) did not do well initially at the box office.
Then there is the acting. Tom Hanks has never shown this much range and emotion. That includes the movies for which he’s won Oscars. This is easily his best performance. Halle Berry and Jim Broadbent are also unbelievably good. And Hugo Weaving…speechless. I’ve always been a fan; however, seeing him play so many roles in the same movie shows you the extent of his talent. Doona Bae shows fragility, strength and heartbreaking beauty. Hell, even Hugh Grant shows substance and depth.
As a writer, what moved me the most about Cloud Atlas was the writing and the pacing. It is fast, each scene like a phrase in a symphony. Within the first few minutes, one character, a writer, admits that flash-forwards and flashbacks can be jarring but asks the audience to indulge him. The reason will soon be apparent.
A word of caution: if you struggled to understand Inception, this movie will probably confuse the heck out of you. Should it have been dumbed down? Anyone that says yes should be smacked in the head and sent back to watch more Kardashians. We should praise Cloud Atlas and everyone involved with it for expecting the audience to be intelligent.
One of my favourite scenes talks about how creating art is similar to St. George battling the dragon: sometimes you slay the dragon, sometimes the dragon slays you. And even if you create the most beautiful masterpiece in history that does not guarantee that the audience will ever hear it. But still you create.
It is written as a series of six stories woven together as tonal variations are merged in a symphony. The pacing is pure music. Six stories all happening at the same time implying that time is just an illusion. All stories are happening at the same time. There is no past, no future, only now. At the same time it shows using subtext how the karma of past events and the ties we have with others shapes our future. When characters die there is a sense of beauty and tragedy and also joy because you know they are going to live again in another life.
And here’s my problem. This movie was a spiritual experience for me. It affirms the importance of every single action, every single choice. There are no small people , no small relationships. I’ve felt the kind of instantaneous love these characters feel. That moment you first see someone and immediately a part of your soul remembers everything you’ve ever shared. That instantaneous click that makes you want to throw away everything you’ve ever known about your life and move in a different direction. It is indescribably powerful, like suddenly the voice of god is whispering in your ear: pay attention.
This is the sort of movie that makes me wish I was a better writer. I feel like Salieri watching Mozart in the movie Amadeus. I am moved at once by the genius of the story telling. I realize my inferiority of my talent while also thanking the gods that there is so much wonder in the world.