Hmmm…”Cloud Atlas,” with three directors and four writers, is rather a doozy to review – complicated and yet simple. Simple: reincarnation. Complicated: every actor plays multiple characters. What you think is the past is really the future or the present. There are six stories interwoven, beginning with the main character, Zachary (Tom Hanks), narrating an ancient tale that begins in 1849. From there it jumps to 1931, then 1973, 2164, and beyond. Clue: Follow the comet birthmark.
Tom Hanks plays six different characters. Halle Berry plays six. Jim Broadbent -5; Hugo Weaving – 6; Hugh Grant – 6; Jim Sturgess – 7; Doona Bae – 6; Ben Whishaw – 5; Keith David – 4; James D’Arcy – 4; and Susan Sarandon – 4. Naming all the characters would only be confusing, because besides some of them fluctuating between good and bad souls, other reincarnations change females into males and vice versa. If no other Oscar is awarded to this film, the one for best makeup is a shoo-in.
Although “Cloud Atlas” lasts nearly three hours, you might not realize it due to the flipping between story locations, times, and characters. At first, it seems that Zachary is an ancient forest tribesman being attacked by painted-faced enemies; then, you realize he and his people have survived an apocalyptic rebellion far in the future. In 1849, his soul’s beginning is as a scientist and not-so-nice doctor…I can see where, without advance notice, this movie might confuse some people. But, if you’re patient and broadminded, it will all come together quite clearly in a very remarkable way.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.