Bookended by segments set in the distant future, the film’s earliest story revolves around an American lawyer (Jim Sturgess) whose encounter with a stowaway has far-reaching consequences. The rest of the mosaic features a famous old composer (Jim Broadbent), a San Francisco reporter (Berry) and a British author/gangster (Hanks), besides other colourful characters.
The writer-directors do a fine job in weaving the narrative strands around a common theme. What’s that theme? The most obvious answer is that it is about notions of reincarnation and a cosmic continuum. The film’s most intriguing conceit is to have the main actors appear in multiple roles, at times even across the racial and gender divide.
The ploy is not always successful since some stars like Hugh Grant are barely recognizable beneath layers of makeup. It also strains credulity to have Hugo Weaving portray a demented nurse. Constantly transporting the viewer to complex new angles of the storyline, the visual extravaganza doesn’t wear out its welcome.
The seamless editing, slick production design, and the thundering music score by the co-director Tom Tykwer all combine to make Cloud Atlas a fairly compelling multi-genre adventure.