I’ve always been a little unnerved when a movie has more than one director. Oddly enough, that’s just what I’m facing down with “Cloud Atlas,” a copy of which our friends at Warner Brothers set out for us to review. The question, however, was would this be an unusual and noteworthy exercise in multiple creative influences, or a pot of broth that has way too many cooks attached to it? Those aching to give it a try, meanwhile, won’t be able to catch this one until it hits stores May 14–on your choice of Blu-ray combo pack, DVD, or digital download– so brace yourself.
“Cloud Atlas” follows a handful of vaguely familiar people–or rather their souls depending somewhat on your interpretation–over the span of several centuries. As we go through the years, jumping ahead to technological dystopias–including one in the post-apocalyptic vein–it will show how characters can grow and change when they’re allowed several hundred years’ worth of canvas in which to operate. Killers become heroes, kindness breeds revolution, and the whole world is fundamentally altered by just a handful of individuals.
There’s no denying that a project like this is best described as “ambitious,” and it certainly is ambitious. It’s also rather interesting, all told, but it’s a little on the disjointed side. The timeline advances several hundred years in the space of a half-hour or so, and needless to say, a whole lot of details are going to be thrown by the wayside, especially in the early going. It takes genuine effort not to just toss the entire metaphorical baby out with the equally metaphorical bathwater, but resisting that particular temptation will pay off…in spades. Seriously, this one is going to require your full attention, but with that investment in hand, the most monstrous dividends I’ve seen in a long time will result. I knew by about a third of the way in that, even if the last third was a complete loss, it was still going to average out into pretty good at the very worst. Thankfully, it ended well indeed, and that brought this whole affair up to nearly perfect overall.
As far as special features go, we’ll have a choice of English, Spanish or French audio, with the same to be had for subtitles. We’ll also get a set of “focus points”, or featurettes, covering different parts of the film, like the interconnected nature of the characters, and before all this there will be a trailer for “The Great Gatsby.”
“Cloud Atlas” is an extremely complex yet downright spectacular title. There’s a lot going on here and it’s going to be well worth watching. Though the philosophy may be a little hard to stomach, the plot will make up for that, and make this one a beautiful, magnificent spree of conflicting plotlines that all manage to gel together in an imperfect, yet still complete, whole.