It might have disappointed at the box office this weekend (although disappointment is a big word for a result that anyone with two eyes and a heart could have saw coming months ago), but in cine-circles, "Cloud Atlas" has been the center of conversation. The adaptation of the best-selling David Mitchell novel, directed by Tom Tykwer, Lana Wachowski and Andy Wachowski, and costing an independently-financed $100 million, it's a bold, genre-spanning film with an all-star cast, and greater ambitions than pretty much everything released in theaters in the last month.
Ever since premiering at TIFF in September, the film has been splitting critics. Some have called it the best film of the year, a boundary-pushing, medium-changing piece of cinema. Others have called it a laughable mess, and among the worst of the year. While we've not quite been going to the same extremes, those among The Playlist team who have seen it are just as divided.
Now that you've had a chance to catch up on it, we want to hear what you think, and for a little encouragement, 5 Playlist team members have written about their own varied reactions to the film, in addition to our official review from TIFF (read it here). Check them out below, and let us know your own response in the comments sections below.
“Cloud Atlas” is an easy movie to marvel at, but a harder one to love. Still, like a soul being pulled through time and space, I do love it. A Russian nesting doll of a movie that seems conversely for everyone and no one, it attempts to represent the breadth of the human experience, in a spirit of universality, but is, at times, abrasively strange. There is something profound and earnest about “Cloud Atlas” (I think), underneath all the mumbo jumbo and there were moments, both individual and when the different stories bump up against each other, echoing and rippling through the cosmos, that genuinely choked me up. But at other times the decisions that the directorial trifecta made are confounding and seem downright wrong – why, for instance, didn’t they choose to replicate a different style for each section (black-and-white 4:3 for the pre-World War II section; a kind of seventies paranoid thriller vibe for the Luisa Rey section)? And why, for a movie that seems like it could be endlessly referential, does it not touch on any pop culture hallmarks? It stands alone, an archipelago with six islands. The biggest problem with “Cloud Atlas,” though, is that its dazzling narrative architecture, the toggling back and forth and braiding together of a half-dozen different storylines, also, at times, actively works against the movie. It’s hard to get a foothold in any of the different threads when you are constantly being jerked out of one and thrust into another. As someone who saw the movie with me said afterwards, “It’s like tourism as opposed to traveling.” The strongest veins in the book remain the strongest here (particularly the Sixsmith section and the Somni section), with some of the other sections taking a hit in their transition (I was expecting more from the Luisa Rey mystery, to be honest) and others flourishing in unexpected ways (the Cavendish section had a surprising kick, with Tykwer’s zany German sensibilities working overtime). All of that said, “Cloud Atlas” does an admirable job with a scale and scope that is both epic and intimate, and no matter how much you can intellectually dissect the film (as seen above), it still resonates as a singularly powerful experience. From womb to tomb. [A-] - Drew Taylor
"Cloud Atlas" is film of polarities, inconsistencies, pleasant surprises and an overwhelmingly hopeful, humanistic streak. For such a BIG movie, it’s far more intimate than expected. And while it doesn't always get the little things right (the Asian and whiteface makeup that's not racist, per se, but disconcerting, for sure), it absolutely knocks the big things out of the park. It's a decidedly liberal film, and after a summer of blockbusters like the nihilistic, conservative "The Dark Knight Rises" (a Randian wet dream if there ever was one), and the cheerfully apolitical (yet willing to muck about with 9/11 imagery!) "The Avengers," getting a grand, sweeping movie that is so unabashedly liberal like "Cloud Atlas" is a breath of fresh air. As the stories weave in and out of each other, discovering the themes along the way is part of the process of taking in this wacky, weird and wonderful movie. Of course, some actors in some roles are going to be more successful than others, and special attention must be paid to the delightful Jim Broadbent as publisher Timothy Cavendish, trapped in an old-folks home (his every reaction shot is GIF-worthy), Doona Bae as a soulful fabricant in Neo-Seoul, and the unparalleled Ben Whishaw as a struggling composer in the 1930s. It's best to go into "Cloud Atlas" with as little preconceived notions, expectations or judgments in mind, and just enjoy the twisty cognitive journey on which you're about to embark. As it expounds upon themes of identity, individualism, destiny, compassion, and karma, you'll realize that this is only a movie that could be made by Lana Wachowski (and Andy and Tom Twyker). For an unfilmable book, I think they did a pretty damn impressive job, even if everything isn't perfect. [B+] - Katie Walsh