Student Review: ‘Cloud Atlas’ highly recommended

The promotional tagline for Lana and Andy Wachowski’s (“The Matrix,” “V for Vendetta”) latest film “Cloud Atlas” says, “Everything is connected.”

Even viewers who are accustomed to the Wachowskis’ complicated plotlines with seeming multitudes of characters will watch this film, tagline in mind, and say, ”I can see that, but how is it all connected?”

The film’s story and setting drastically spans time and place — from a ship in the South Pacific Ocean in 1849 to the post-apocalyptic Hawaiian Islands in 2321. The opening sequence before the title drop quickly jumps back and forth between the film’s six storylines rapidly, helping the viewer get used to the format for the rest of the film, which moves only somewhat slower.

Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess and Hugh Grant appear in all six of the stories while the rest of the ensemble cast still make their fair share of appearances. These reappearances could be interpreted as reincarnations of the respective actors’ characters, or it may simply be a literal way of showing how stories and characters repeat over time.

It remains unclear (at least to me) if tracing the connections for a specific actor’s characters throughout the film would be a decent way to read it; however, it can be said for (almost) certain that Weaving is always the bad guy.

In typical Wachowski style, each of the stories features a chosen hero (labeled for your convenience by a comet-shaped birthmark) who rebels against some kind of system, whether it be a business deal, local superstitions, a totalitarian society or a retirement home — it makes sense in context.

Each of the plotlines’ characters are reading about the plotline before it, whether through Adam Ewing’s (Sturgess) journal or a film about Timothy Cavendish’s (Jim Broadbent) life, an action one of Berry’s characters describes as “trying to understand why we keep making the same mistakes … over and over.”

The makeup department for “Cloud Atlas” deserves a standing ovation or a medal or something. While Hanks is mostly recognizable in each of his roles in the film, the fantastic makeup job had me convinced that Berry was both a white woman and a Korean man — it makes just as much sense in context.

One of my few but chief complaints with the film are aspects where the Wachowskis have ripped themselves off. The entire storyline set in 2144 Neo Seoul feels too much like a carbon copy of “The Matrix,” this time starring a less-than-expressive Doona Bae instead of the less-than-expressive Keanu Reeves. It’s a small grievance that stands out to me only as a “Matrix” fan, so others might not feel so put off by it.

“Cloud Atlas” may be almost three hours long, but I was intrigued for the entire time.

If you absolutely must immediately understand exactly how everything fits together in a movie, stay far and away from this one. However, if you are willing to wait, step back and see the painting that the film’s tiny brush strokes make, then I highly recommend it.