JT Film Review

Cloud Atlas (2012)

Cloud Atlas Review
Review #167

4.5/5 stars

Director –  Lana and Andy Wachowski, and Tom Tykwer

Cast – Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, James D’arcy, Zhou Xun, Keith David, Hugh Grant, Susan Sarandon


This is a helluva ambitious movie. Helluva.

Written and directed by the Wachowski siblings and Tom Tykwer, it is an adaptation on the 2004 novel of the same name. It consists of six intertwined stories, ranging from the 1800’s to a post apocalyptic future. There are physical links between the stories… letters written in one time period are read by a character in another, a character in one story is worshiped as a deity in another, that sort of thing. The lead actors also all appear in several stories as characters with different ethnicities and even genders.

But the real link between the stories is thematic. The point of the movie is that people’s actions have consequences, and choices we make “reverberate through time”, etc. It’s not a new theme. It could easily be quite corny too, but success is all in the execution.  Cloud Atlas avoids being cheesy,  (more or less), and I would even describe it as inspiring. It easily avoids being boring, too, which seems odd as it’s almost three hours long.

It is definitely what I would call a “lie down movie”, though; one of those long films you can go to in a near-empty theatre, lie down on the seats, and let the movie wash over you. (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was another one.) The movie intrigues us, draws us in, and gets to the point in due time. It drags a bit in the middle, to be sure, but not for long. It’s six stories are all interesting in one way or another. They weave together well, despite the occasional jarring transition, and the actors all commit to their roles one hundred percent.  If you don’t like any of the stories, there’s a new one coming along in a couple of minutes!

I would like to touch on the ridiculous accusations of racism that have surrounded the movie. Many white members of the cast appear in a couple of stories as ethnicities other than their own. This is done with prosthetics and makeup, and has drawn comparisons to black-face. Some people are asking why actors of the ethnicity portrayed were not hired to play those parts, and normally they would have a point. But in a movie like this, where actors of all colours play different parts, the accusation fall flat. You can not say putting Hugh Grant in vaguely Oriental makeup is racist when the next scene features Halle Berry as a white British woman. Context is key here, and there is no racism here. No chance.


Cloud Atlas is huge, audacious, and effective. It’s six stories complement each other wonderfully, and the actors are obviously into the spirit of the thing. It sounds so flippant to say it, but Cloud Atlas is inspiring. It might confuse some and alienate others, but it is much more approachable than some are saying. Highly recommended.




‘Cloud Atlas’ on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia



November 21, 2012 - Posted by | 4.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Drama, Year - 2010-2019 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Good review. I wasn’t a big fan of the movie, but I agree with your point about the racism. Halle Berry plays a woman of another race, and so does Doona (not Donna) Bae.

    I agree it is approachable. I think I was expecting too much (!!), and I felt it was a letdown when I couldn’t find more connections between the actors’ own roles.

    Comment by G | November 26, 2012 | Reply

  2. When you mention you were exepcting too much, do you mean you heard itwas good and felt let down? I find if I read a critic saying something is really good, that I can easiy feel let down. I buy into the hype too easily, it’s hard not to. Is that what you meant?

    Oh, and thanks for the correction 🙂

    Comment by jamesturpin | November 26, 2012 | Reply

  3. No, I just wanted there to be more to the hub-bub. The actors in different roles was more distracting for me — I thought they would connect somehow to their past or future selves. I didn’t feel there was a progression to anything — each story began and ended. I was under the impression, each vignette would be more closely connected with more character development.

    Comment by G | November 28, 2012 | Reply

  4. I enojyed the actors in different roles, I have to say. The movie had a bit of a “breaking the fourth wall” feel to them, from Jim Broadbent’s speech at the beginning (“Some people don’t like flashbackst,i..”), to the multiple casting, to Tom Hanks book-ending scenes. It had a nice feel to it.

    I do maybe agree with the point about the stories weaving a bit more. They had a bit, but you really had to think about it.

    Comment by jamesturpin | November 28, 2012 | Reply

  5. Stupid, naive and what this guys called movie critic..How does one make this stupid
    movie critic to understand underlining message of this film is anti-Asian male and
    sexual exploitation of Asian female? This is not first time White guy playing Asian role
    in Yellowface there is history behind Holllywood they done that. So this yellowface the way it looks horrible is nothing new. The director used old format anti-Asian male depiction from 40’s and 50’s Hollywood film, and compare with non-asian male playing
    other race and gender is not Hollywood format. Asian female playing White female
    role is not old format. It’s all news here just as Black guy playing white guy is new.
    White guy playing Asian guy is a tradition of Hollywood’s anti-Asian male stereotype.
    This is what makes this film racist. Look that white in Yellowfac, they all look like some
    Vulcan race from Star Trek.

    Comment by jay mckim | December 17, 2012 | Reply

    • Personal insults and strange syntax aside, I have to disagree. It all comes down to intent, doesn’t it. Of course it is true that yellow-face (and black-face too) was used in past generations as a way to mock people of Asian and African descent. However, I think it is obvious here that no insult is intended. It is used purely as a way to carry through the theme of certain character types always existing. When looking for bigotry, look for a movie not partly written and directed by a post-op trans gender woman.

      Comment by jamesturpin | December 17, 2012 | Reply

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