A grand, brave, often mesmerizing but just as often puzzling cinematic experience, “Cloud Atlas” (R, 172 min.) takes a book generally thought to be unfilmable and delivers something rather astonishing. The Wachowski siblings, best known for the “Matrix” movies, team up again (also joined by co-writer/director Tom Tykwer) to create a sprawling story that encompasses dozens of characters spread over several time spans, with a universal message about the sanctity of the soul.
If that sounds a little full-of-it grandiose, well, that’s because it is. But even as you struggle to understand the accents of Tom Hanks and Halle Berry or even figure out where and when you are, most observers should find the experience thrilling.
Hanks and Berry are joined by a number of other actors, each playing several roles – though it’s often a challenge to recognize them buried under layers of costume and prosthetic makeup. The action jumps from the 19th century Pacific Islands to America in the 1970s, and then to a dystopian future Korea and a post-apocalyptic time in which the Earth is nearly deserted.
Though it may not be up everyone’s alley, “Cloud Atlas” is an innovative and ambitious piece of science fiction drama that’s worth a look.
Extras are rather decent, though you have to upgrade to the Blu-ray edition to get the best stuff. The DVD version only comes with a making-of documentary.
It’s not surprising that the notoriously publicity-shy Wachowskis chose not to record a commentary track, but they make up for it with six more featurettes covering everything from casting to special effects, plus philosophical musings about reincarnation.