It would seem that this movie, Cloud Atlas, has caused some controversy, both in its style and its message.  The movie critic from The New Yorker said [it is] “the motion-picture equivalent of being cornered at a noisy party by three filmmakers expounding at length—with animated gestures and gusty yet sincere vehemence—on their philosophy of life.”

Yet a commenter on the critique stated, [it is] “quite blatantly a film about the Buddhist concepts of karma, dharma and reincarnation.”


When reading more about it after my initial viewing, I learned that this has been an issue since its premiere at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, where it received a 10-minute standing ovation.  Wikipedia noted that the film has polarized critics, with some, like Roger Ebert, praising it highly “one of the most ambitious films ever made,” and others, such as Christy Lemire panning it outright.

What do you think?  Have you seen it?  How did you interpret the movie?  How did it make you feel?

The critic, Richard Brody, painfully concluded that the “problem is that it’s not audacious enough; the story-telling within each episode is utterly conventional, familiar; the image-making is for the most part unoriginal; the acting is skillful but nothing new. And there isn’t much on-screen that shows great expense and great attention to décor, to the full and deep creation of vast worlds.”

I beg to differ, and feel more in step with the  person who commented, [I] “encourage all who take the time to read these comments to ignore it completely and go experience this piece of cinema on the big screen while you have the chance. I’ve seen it twice already. The second time was with friends…  we discussed it for almost an hour and a half after leaving the theater.”

One of the three directors, Lana Wachowski, stated, “What we find is that the most interesting art is open to a spectrum of interpretation.”

To me that is a good movie; one that makes you want to discuss it, the contents, not just the acting, the IDEAS, not just the scenery.  I want to be entertained, but I also want to think about how to interpret what I just found entertaining.

I’ll admit it was a bit confusing to just get engaged in one story and to be pulled away to the next, and as the critic said, to be playing a game of “Where’s Waldo?” as each actor played a different role in each story.  Yet I came away intrigued by the stories and having the desire to discuss their themes more.

I would agree that the movie should just be enjoyed, as Roger Ebert said, “On my second viewing, I gave up any attempt to work out the logical connections between the segments, stories and characters.”  However, unlike Ebert, I think on my next viewing I will  actually try to make the connections.

The official synopsis for Cloud Atlas describes the film as: “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.”

Clearly within each story people’s actions affected one another: a life saved in 1849, a life lost in 1936, the meeting of one character from 1936 later in another story line which results in many lives being saved by the exposure of a plot by big oil to use a nuclear accident for the benefit of oil companies in the ’70s.  And in some cases people are impacted across time: the film clip from the current time was enjoyed by a “slave” in the futuristic society of 2144, and her story of being a genetically-engineered “fabricant” is shared in the post-apocalyptic time-frame when they see it while sending a message to people who have left Earth and now live on other planets.

It was all just fascinating.

Looking back and looking forward, realizing that issues of power and control, and love and passion, have always been a part of a full life and probably always will be.

And in the end – I just really like Tom Hanks.