A sprawling, ambitious film of epic proportions, writers/directors Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer should be applauded just for filming it in the first place. The film begins with an old man recounting a story in a strange English syntax and then introduces six individual stories that are connected by a common thread.
In the original novel, the six stories begin and end individually. In the film version, Mr. Tykwer and The Wachowski's have decided to flash back and forth between the tales creating a dizzying effect that in the beginning, may be hard to keep up with. The editing is remarkable as during various times of this almost 3 hour adventure, scenes may only last seconds or minutes in each segment and yet they all connect beautifully. Once the viewer matches pace to the rhythmic nature of the various narratives, it becomes easier to follow and you find yourself immersed in the overall film.
The film stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Jim Sturgess, Hugo Weaving, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, Ben Whishaw, Keith David, and Bae Doo-na all in multiples roles, sometimes under layers of makeup. Part of the fun of the film is discovering, at the end, who played which character and the answers may surprise you. Regarding the acting ability of such a star-studded cast, I can only say that, with six revolving plots, they are better in some than others.
As the film weaves in and out of it's various narratives, from the 1800's, the 1900's, into the present and far into the future, each story deepens and some work better than others. It's like watching six little mini-movies and I will leave it up to the viewer to decide which ones they favor. The camera work and special effects are terrific as well as some of the natural scenery. Taken as a complete work, "Cloud Atlas" is a satisfying fun ride with a thrilling climax as each story plays out within the total narrative.