For a while now I've been really looking forward to watching Cloud Atlas, I was intrigued to see just how the different story beats would work and how they would all connect with each other. When I finally watched the film, not only was I surprised at how well it all worked, but I am prepared to say that it is one of the best films I've ever seen.
Starting off with all the different stories, each one has a completely different feel, from a sea-faring adventure in the style of Amistad in the 1800's to 1920's romance to a 1970's detective thriller to a modern day Richard Curtis style comedy to a Blade-Runner-esque sci-fi adventure set in Seoul in 100 years to a post-apocalyptic drama. Even though all of these stories have completely different styles, they all fit together perfectly, not just through recurring themes like slavery, lost love, guilt and oppression (mainly towards homosexuals in the Robert Frobisher story, with a hint towards the anti-Semitism going through Germany through the rise of Hitler at the time) but through the individual scenes themselves. There are a number of points in the film in which multiple scenes from the different stories are all edited together to give a feel of repeated events throughout time and how these events. This all ties back to the central theme of reincarnation, not just of people but of events.
The acting is also magnificent. Every single actors does a great job playing all of their characters, even those in a story for just a few seconds. Tom Hanks not only does some great funny-because-you-can-tell-it's-Tom-Hanks performances in the first and fourth stories, but in the final story, Tom Hanks gives one of the best dramatic performances of his career as Zachry. Halle Berry also gives the best performances of her career, mainly as Luisa Ray. Jim Sturgess, one of my favourite under-rated actors, is great fun to watch in a few stories but gives some brilliantly dramatic performances in the first and fifth stories, working brilliantly with Doona Bae, who also does a great job. Jim Broadbent provides the main comic relief in the film, providing some laugh out loud moments as Timothy Cavendish, but as Vyvyan Ayrs, he is also really threatening. Ben Whishaw and James D'Arcy do great jobs as Robert Frobisher and Rufus Sixsmith respectively. Hugh Grant does a great slimy performance in the Luisa Ray story and provides the maddest performance in his career in the final story. Keith David is brilliant as well, just for his amazing voice and Hugo Weaving is a very intimidating presence throughout the film, even when playing a woman and especially as Old Georgie in the final story.
The way that all the actors play different characters is done through incredible make-up (by the way, I don't see the make-up used in the Sonmi-451 story as racist) and I cannot see how this film was not nominated for the Best Make-Up Oscar. The production design is also incredible, really selling the different stories (despite the San Francisco scenes obviously being shot in Glasgow), especially with Neo-Seoul. The direction from the Wachowski's and Tom Twyker is excellent, along with the music, which Twyker was involved with, especially the titular Cloud Atlas Sextet. Overall, on a production level the film is outstanding.
There are some problems though, like how some of the themes could have been explored better and the Luisa Ray story started off a bit slow, but these are just nitpicks in a film as incredible as this.
Overall, Cloud Atlas is a masterpiece. I can't really explain how good the film is, you need to see it yourself. The few minor problems in the film are overshadowed by just how good everything else is. The story, the acting and the production design are all incredible and the fact that this has not received a single Oscar nomination is a complete crime. This is easily one of the best films I've ever seen and if you have even a vague desire to go and see this, do it, at the very least you won't be bored.
My Rating: 5/5