Cloud Atlas by directors Tom Tykwer, Lana Wachowski, and Andy Wachowski is a cinematic Odyssey based on a novel by British author David Mitchell. The story centers on six stories from the 1800s up to our distant future. The concept of the eternal soul links the vignettes as the characters of one story are reborn into another.
From the travails of a young American in the mid-19th century on a vessel crossing the Pacific to a female clone who rises up against oppression in a futuristic society, Cloud Atlas is a grand tale about lessons learned from previous lives.
Lana Wachowski wrote and co-directed the film. “We started looking at the way the stories connected. We were immediately drawn to this concept what if the villain of one story is actually the hero of another story played by the same actor," she said.
To achieve this, each actor plays multiple roles. Tom Hanks is one of the leads. “On one page, you go from 1851 to 1974 to you know, dystopian future," he said.
“Our Lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others, past, and present and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”
The challenge was great says Halle Berry who has significant film presence and interprets six characters. “Each one of those characters, the soul evolved in order to have the strength to be the character that I ended up being," she said.
In her last incarnation, she plays a woman in the future who saves the world.
Cloud Atlas is also about eternal love.
"Each story propels the next story and then you're back again and it propels again the next one," said actress Susan Sarandon, who also appears in the film.
She says romance links each story to the next as the characters meet again and again.
The cast also includes Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant and Hugo Weaving, who is famous for his role as the sinister Agent Smith in The Matrix. Once again, Weaving represents pure evil. His goal is to tempt and stall the evolution of the soul.
This $100 million production offers costumes and sets that highlight the film's different eras.
“The breadth, the scope, the vast amount of time and space the movie covers. Some buildings are just doors and windows and other buildings are great architecture," said Hanks.
But the film lacks the depth it promises. The stories meander and there are too many characters. After three hours we are lost between the past, the present and the future.