I’m not sure why more people don’t love this movie. Perhaps it’s dizzying. Whatever the case, it really resonates with me. The tricky and fantastic thing about Cloud Atlas begins with it’s structural differences from other movies. Instead of having Halle Berry, Tom Hanks, and the cast each assigned a character to play, the Wachowski’s give every cast member a “soul” to play. The movie depicts 5 different stories — each set in different time periods from the stone age, to the imperial age, to the present, etc. In each of these stories, the souls take on different characters, of varying importance. That is to say, in one story, the soul played by Tom Hanks is the main character, a doctor, while in another he’s a tertiary character, a gangster. While the characters and settings change, the personalities of the souls shine through constant. And with that structure, the Wachowski’s are able to not only relate 5 entertaining stories, but, moreover, have the devices to powerfully suggest a number of philosophical ideas.
I realize that all sounds complicated. The easiest way to understand it is to watch it. Which I recommend.