Cloud Atlas movie review: We are all connected

Oct 26, 2012 at 9:00 a.m. ET

This uplifting film pushes the boundaries of storytelling by connecting five stories over 500 years. If you believe a butterfly’s wings can start a hurricane, you’ll be delighted to peel back the layers of this intricate movie to find out how its disparate characters are eternally linked.

Tom Hanks in Cloud Atlas

3.5 stars: Perfect for soul searchers

The past, the present and the future all have equal importance in Cloud Atlas. History repeats itself in five separate yet interlocking stories and new heroes are created, as the theme of slavery versus freedom remains a uniquely human affliction, no matter what century.

What's interesting in this film, based on the book of the same name by David Mitchell, is that the future is not idealized in any way. The story line, set in the year 2144 in Neo Soul, a Blade-Runner-esque, flooded South Korea, presents a sinister version of capitalism in a society that clones workers and indoctrinates them into the service of the consumer.

Cloud Atlas

Korean actress Bae Doo Na shines as Sonmi-451, an accidental Christ figure for the 23rd century, as her actions inspire the next two generations of post-apocalyptic, neo-tribal people separated from the spaceship-traveling elite Meronym, just one of the roles played by Halle Berry.

The most accessible story line is when Berry plays Louisa Rey, a journalist in 1973, who investigates a scandal at nuclear power plant that will impact the lives of generations to come. As Rey, Berry is an intellectual do-gooder who risks all for the safety of the unsuspecting public, facing off against corrupt nuclear official Lloyd Hooks (Hugh Grant).

Cloud Atlas

Each story line presents a scenario of slavery — literal and figurative — and the fight for freedom. Repeated over and over are lines like "From womb to tomb, we are all connected," and "Death is only a door. When one closes, another one opens."

Cloud Atlas is less a traditional Hollywood movie and more of a mosaic of timeless human struggles against greed and ignorant, power-hungry brutes of all economic levels. Connecting the characters is a comet-shaped birthmark, representing the idea that we are all made from stars and are eternally linked.

The actors have great fun in this film playing various characters spanning five centuries. But instead of the filmmakers relying on the great talents of Susan Sarandon, Tom Hanks and Jim Broadbent, they gave each actor a prosthetic nose to help differentiate them as they cross centuries.

Note to Hollywood: Good actors don't need prosthetic noses to act, even if they are playing multiple characters in the same movie. As good as the makeup artists are, fakes noses are obvious and distracting, as proven in Looper.

Bottom line: This is a film of great imagination, timeless love and the power of hope. With a run time of nearly three hours, Cloud Atlas is ambitious, mind-bending and refreshing.

Photo credit: Warner Bros.