Cloud Atlas

Lay on the couch last night and watched Cloud Atlas. I enjoyed it. I thought it was good entertainment, besides being a fascinating, multilayered story. I know it’s had mixed reviews, but I thought it was pretty coherent despite the jumping between eras and characters, and I had no trouble following a story line that was surprisingly linear (kudos to the editor, great job). I was surprised to find myself mildly moved by it as well. I had heard comments from those favourable to oit that it was an uplifting story. I’m not necessarily sceptical, but I tend to think it has to be good to affect me. Any bullshit, any contrivance, and pop goes the weasel. That didn’t happen though. Instead I was caught up in the story and carried along as one strand, and then another and another thematically joined, across the span of millennia, between characters in different guises and incarnations. Yes, perhaps the message is a little chessy, but it’s a good message nonetheless, beautifully portrayed on screen, and a message worth remembering: “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.”

As an aside, one of the pleasures of this movie is watching the cast of actors portray different roles through the story, not always that of their own sex. Prosthetics and make-up transform the actors we know so well – Tom Hanks, Hugh Grant, etc – into a variety of characters, some recognisable, and some that take a bit more effort. It’s a key part of the story as the quote above makes plain. The choices we make impact upon the world and our life now, and in the future. Generations go by and these ‘characters’ (not sure if that is the correct term) progress and regress according to their past deeds and actions. They take on different guises, one life to the next, the same entity transformed physically, and given another go round on this earth. And so we see these familiar actors made up in different ways, with scars, with big noses, sometimes as a woman or a man, fun for the viewer watching, and necessary to emphasise the crooked path our choices send us down.

I figure it’s a movie you can watch again and again and get something different from it. I think it’s a triumph, and find myself surprised at claiming it. But it is – a great, strange, deeply profound story, beautifully written, edited and directed, and with performances we can relate to. It finishes, and you think, well, we are all part of the same weal – and that it is up to us to act responsibly within that – in the end our lives are ours to determine, and what we determine has consequences far beyond what we can imagine.

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