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Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, Keith David, James D'Arcy, Xun Zhou
Writing Credits:
David Mitchell (novel,"Cloud Atlas"), Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski

Everything Is Connected.

Future. Present. Past. Everything is connected. An exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.The story is a time-shifting weave of six interlinking narratives, with diverse settings from the savagery of a Pacific Island in the 1850s to a dystopian Korea of the near future. Based on the New York Times best-selling novel "Cloud Atlas" written by David Mitchell.

Box Office:
$102 million.
Opening Weekend
$9.612 million on 2008 screens.
Domestic Gross
$27.098 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Latin Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Latin Spanish
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 172 min.
Price: $35.99
Release Date: 5/14/2013

• Seven Focus Point Featurettes
• Previews
• DVD Copy


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Cloud Atlas [Blu-Ray] (2012)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 8, 2013)

Sometimes Hollywood perplexes me. Did it really make sense to lavish a $102 million budget to make Cloud Atlas, a flick based on a complex 2004 novel often regarded as “unadaptable”? Probably not, but with the creators of The Matrix behind the camera and major stars Tom Hanks and Halle Berry in front of it, Warner Bros. apparently figured it merited the gamble.

Given the broad scope covered by the film, I’m not even going to attempt a synopsis. Here’s what the movie’s press materials promise: “An exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution. The story is a time-shifting weave of six interlinking narratives, with diverse settings from the savagery of a Pacific Island in the 1850s to a dystopian Korea of the near future.”

If you read that and wonder how it describes what the movie will deliver, join the club. Atlas offers a film that cannot be summarized easily, and any attempts to create an overview will tend to either be too vague or too specific. Given that choice, I went with the “too vague” PR blurb because a) I don’t want to devote an hour to writing a synopsis, and b) the evolution of Atlas is better served fresh.

Though expect some tough sledding along the way. As I went into the film, I’d never read the book and knew nothing about the multiple plots beyond the general overview in that press release.

I can’t vouch for others, but for me, this meant a good hour of “what the heck?” moments. We start with shots of a scarred, tattooed, bald and elderly Hanks and encounter the same actors over and over in different roles – roles that require substantial physical alterations. Some seem minor – like a few of Berry’s looks – but others become more substantial. Many Caucasian performers get “turned Asian” for the Neo Seoul scenes set in the 22nd century, and Berry herself gets done up as a white woman for a sequence placed in the 1930s. (Oddly, she looks a ton like Madonna.)

One could accuse the filmmakers of “stunt casting” as they reuse the same actors repeatedly, but I think that misses the point. Yes, the makeup varies in quality and can be a distraction; apparently the art of giving white people Asian features hasn’t progressed much since James Bond turned Japanese in 1967. Also, as demonstrated in another scene, it’s no easier to make an Asian woman look Caucasian. At times, the unconvincing makeup threatens to take us out of the film.

However, the power of the interlocking narratives keeps us with Atlas, and the repeated use of the same actors becomes a crucial component in its success. Without getting too heavily into its message – which one character spells out pretty explicitly toward the end – the theme focuses on the interconnected lives we lead and how a person’s actions in one era can impact someone else in another. The manner in which we see the same performers helps reinforce that notion and throws out other philosophical conceits as well.

I’ll leave it to others to pore over and debate all those messages/meanings; right now I care more about how all this fares as a film. My judgment? Pretty well, even given the general confusion that comes with its first hour or so.

Maybe ushers should’ve handed out playbills that read “expect to be confused for a while” at theatrical screenings. Even though I anticipated a dense narrative, I guess I wasn’t quite ready for what I got; perhaps if I’d gone into the film with an understanding that it’d take some time for it to make much sense, I’d have better been able to go with the flow.

If you can muddle through that sense of being adrift, though, Atlas comes with rewards at the other end – and even when it leaves you at sea, it maintains enough intrigue and oomph to keep you involved. Actually, it might be the viewer’s attempts to connect the dots too soon that create the mental fatigue. As I watched, I wanted so badly to figure out the purpose of the multiple narratives/roles that I wasted my time; I should’ve just focused on the specifics and not worried about the bigger picture. So consider yourself notified to lay back and enjoy the ride without too much stress; it’ll make sense before too long.

When it does, it creates a pretty memorable experience. I don’t want to spill too many beans, as I want to leave out potential spoilers – of which many abound – but suffice it to say that Atlas does deliver a powerful tale in the end. With ample action, comedy, drama and mystery, there’s something for everyone here, all packed into one sprawling, epic package.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A+/ Audio B+/ Bonus C+

Cloud Atlas appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. The film came with possibly the most attractive live-action visual presentation I’ve yet seen on Blu-ray.

Sharpness looked immaculate. At all times, the image appeared concise and detailed; indeed, it almost took on a three-dimensional sense on occasion. I witnessed no issues with jaggies or moiré effects, and edge haloes failed to materialize. Print flaws stayed away from this clean image.

With a wide variety of settings, Atlas delivered a good array of colors. These always appeared excellent, as the hues seemed vivid and dynamic. Blacks appeared deep and rich, while shadows showed nice clarity and delineation. I could find nothing to fault in this stunning transfer.

While not as impressive, the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio worked fine for the material. Much of the movie stayed with subdued elements, so it didn’t always offer opportunities for the most engrossing soundscape. With their sci-fi battles, the Neo Seoul sequences became easily the most active and involving, but others delivered some pep as well; from the seagoing vessels of 1849 to a car chase in 1973, the track gave us occasional standout moments. These weren’t frequent, but when they occurred, they contributed added dimensionality.

Audio quality always satisfied. Speech was distinctive and concise, without edginess or other issues. Music sounded vivid and vibrant, while effects showed nice definition and oomph. Low-end response remained warm and full. This was a good but not great soundtrack.

In terms of extras, we find seven Focus Points that run a total of 54 minutes, 46 seconds. These include “A Film Like No Other” (7:15), “Everything Is Connected” (8:00), “The Impossible Adaptation” (9:07), “The Essence of Acting” (7:20), “Spaceships, Slaves and Sextets” (8:08), “The Bold Science Fiction of Cloud Atlas” (7:14) and “Eternal Recurrence: Love, Life and Longing in Cloud Atlas” (7:39). Across these, we hear from writers/directors Tom Tykwer and Lana and Andy Wachowski, producer Grant Hill, production designer Hugh Bateup, makeup hair and prosthetics designers Jeremy Woodhead and Daniel Parker, dialect coach Julia Wilson, author David Mitchell, executive producer Phillip Lee, and actors Tom Hanks, Hugh Grant, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Ben Whishaw, Jim Sturgess, James D’Arcy, Keith David, David Gyasi, Susan Sarandon, Doona Bae, Hugo Weaving, and Zhu Zhu. The “Points” covers logistical challenges, story/character elements and the interlocking narratives, the source novel and its adaptation, cast and performances, editing and visual/production design.

On the negative side, the “Points” don’t tell us a ton about the nuts and bolts of the production. We get some info about the film’s actual creation, but most of the featurettes concentrate on interpretation/explanation.

Which isn’t a bad thing given the movie’s complexity. Those involved offer some nice insights that should help flesh out the experience for most viewers. I’d still like more filmmaking material, but the “Points” work pretty well anyway.

New viewers should wait until after they’ve watched Atlas to check out the “Points”. Since they help explain the movie, there might be temptation to go through them first, but I think they’d ruin a lot of the fun.

The disc opens with an ad for The Great Gatsby. No trailer for Atlas shows up here.

A second disc provides a DVD copy of Cloud Atlas. It comes with one of the Focus Points: “A Film Like No Other”.

Taken from a so-called “unfilmable” novel, Cloud Atlas offers a dense and sprawling experience that pays off in the end. Despite some tough-going along the way, it all comes together in an eminently satisfying manner. The Blu-ray delivers superb visuals along with good audio and some useful bonus materials. I highly recommend this challenging but rewarding movie.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 29
5 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

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