May 14th 2013 marked the Blu-ray release of the Warner Home Video title Cloud Atlas.
The film is a science fiction drama that was financed by European investors.
The overall budget was over $100M, making Cloud Atlas one of the most expensive independent films of all time.
The screenplay was adapted from the novel by David Mitchell, and the film features plotlines set across six different time periods.
Cloud Atlas the Movie
The film has six independent but interwoven stories spanning time and space.
Segments from the stories are all presented, all inter-cut, before the opening title, and this style of storytelling continues throughout.
For simplicity I will summarize the stories independently.
The first story is set in the South Pacific in the mid 1800’s.
Here Adam Ewing, an American lawyer from San Francisco, has come to the Chatham Islands to conclude business on behalf of his father-in-law.
A Moriori slave stows away on Ewing’s ship, and convinces Ewing to advocate for him to join the crew as a freeman.
All the while Dr. Henry Goose slowly poisons Ewing with the ‘cure’ for a parasitic worm, aiming to steal Ewing’s valuables.
In Scotland, 1936, a bisexual English musician Robert Frobisher finds work as an amanuensis to composer Vyvyan Ayrs, allowing him the time and inspiration to compose his own masterpiece, The Cloud Atlas Sextet.
But Ayrs aims to take credit for Frobisher’s work, and threatens to expose his sexual exploits if he resists.
Journalist Luisa Rey meets an older Sixsmith, Frobisher’s former lover, now a nuclear physicist, in San Francisco 1973.
Sixsmith tips off Rey to a conspiracy regarding the safety of a new nuclear reactor run by Lloyd Hooks, but is assassinated by Hooks’ hitman Bill Smoke before he can give her a report that proves it.
In the United Kingdom 2012, publisher Timothy Cavendish has a windfall when Dermot Hoggins, a gangster author whose book he has published, murders a critic and is sent to jail.
When Hoggins’ cohorts threaten Cavendish’s life for a share of the profits, Cavendish seeks help from his brother Denholme, who tricks him into hiding in a nursing home, where he is held against his will.
Sonmi-451 is a genetically-engineered clone server at a restaurant in Neo Seoul Korea 2144, and is interviewed before her execution.
She recounts how she was released from her compliant life of servitude by the rebel movement known as “Union”.
The final story is set on the Big Island, dated as 106 winters after The Fall, though is obviously further into the future.
Zachry lives with his sister and niece Catkin in a primitive society called ‘The Valley’, after most of humanity had died during The Fall.
Zachry is plagued by hallucinations, which cause him to cower in fear when his brother-in-law and nephew are attacked and killed by the cannibalistic Kona tribe.
Zachry’s village is visited by Meronym, a member of the Prescients, a society holding on to remnants of technology from before The Fall.
In return for saving Catkin from death, Zachry agrees to guide Meronym into the mountains in search of a communications station where she can get a message to Earth’s colonies.
In many ways Cloud Atlas redefines the term epic.
As well as an almost three hour run time, the movie spans time and space in ways that has never been done before.
Each of the stories stands alone well enough, each with its own genre, though with enough similarity to wind together throughout the movie.
The original novel written by David Mitchell was considered by many, including the author himself, to be impossible to adapt to film.
However the film makers have not only managed to adequately translate the stories to the screen, they have masterfully taken the themes of the book even further in the film version.
A number of recurring themes play throughout the stories, including the music of the Cloud Atlas Sextet, which in many ways parallels the sex stories of the movie.
Another mechanism to convey themes through the six stories was the use of the same actors throughout the six stories.
Sometimes it was obvious that the actors were the same, and other times not so much, though it was clear that a number of the characters were ‘reincarnations’ of previous ones.
A number of other more subtle ties exist between the stories also, and as such the audience can take new things from the film with multiple viewings.
Personally I loved the film and recommend it to fans of films that dare to go beyond the Hollywood standard fare.
The film contains excellent performances from Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw and James D’Arcy.
Cloud Atlas was directed by Tom Tykwer, who directed Run Lola Run and The International, as well as Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski, the film makers behind the legendary Matrix series as well as Bound and Speed Racer.
The film received predominantly positive reviews, with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 66%, and had a strong IMDb score of 7.8/10.
Cloud Atlas earned $27.1M at the US box office, though exceeded $100M in the foreign box office.
So while it didn’t do especially well domestically, it was much more appreciated by international audiences.
Cloud Atlas on Blu-ray Disc
The video on the disc is an AVC 1080p encode at 22 Mbps, and is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.40:1.
The movie was shot on film though obviously also has a lot of special effects shots as well.
Overall the film looks great, with just a hint of grain throughout.
See the details page for Cloud Atlas for full resolution PNG screen captures taken directly from the disc.
The main audio is lossless DTS-HD Master Audio with 5.1 channels – 24 bits resolution at 48 kHz.
The disc is a dual layer BD50, with 43.5 GB used and is coded for All Regions.
Cloud Atlas on Blu-ray Disc – The Bonus Features
This release features a collection of featurettes, that all contain interviews with the directors and cast, along with clips and behind the scenes footage.
A Film Like No Other discusses some of the unique aspects of the movie.
From the crossing of genres, to the actors playing multiple roles, to multiple filming units, the film broke new ground in many ways.
It is not often that you see a big budget experimental film that is shot in multiple countries.
The actors and the crew all weigh in on the unique experiences they have experienced.
The interconnectedness of the stories is covered in the Everything is Connected featurette.
The cast and crew talk about the elements from each of the stories and the connections that tie the stories together.
Each of the six worlds even embody a different film genre, though they also tie in together.
The author of the novel also discusses the genesis of each of the stories.
The Impossible Adaptation talks about the seemingly impossible task of taking the novel into the cinematic space.
The author David Mitchell claimed that he never had any expectation that the novel could be adapted for the big screen.
He also discussed his creative method and the genesis and development of the original novel.
The structure of the novel is also covered, and how it differs somewhat from how the film version was presented.
The actors each playing as many as six roles in this film is the focus of The Essence of Acting.
A lot of the time the actors are wearing prosthetics to change their age, gender and race.
This of course led to the actors having to cover a much wider range of characters which is a huge challenge.
As much as it was a challenge to identify the actors in all of their roles in the film, the actors themselves faced the same challenge during production, not always recognizing each other.
Spaceships, Slaves & Sextets is all about the six stories and how they are intercut, as well as other sextets that appear in the film.
The technique allows for connected moments to be matched up and for synergies to be exploited.
The mysteries and recurring themes and visuals are also discussed here.
Certainly some of the characters evolve throughout the film as the stories progress, while others get worse over time.
The Bold Science Fiction of Cloud Atlas naturally covers the film’s cutting edge futuristic concepts that include cloning and extra-planetary space travel.
The Cloud Atlas vision of the future has many themes, both positive and negative extrapolations of lives today.
Eternal Recurrence: Love, Life and Longing in Cloud Atlas explores the different stages of love and relationship throughout the film.
There are a number of relationships which develop across the time periods, whereas others are extremely complex and twisted over time.
This segment highlights the complexity of the interplay between the different stories that allows for a great depth of theme and subtext.
Running 7 to 10 minutes each, this collection of supplements gives great insights behind the film’s production.
This release additionally includes a DVD Copy for legacy players and an UltraViolet Digital Copy code.
Cloud Atlas on Blu-ray – Final Thoughts
Cloud Atlas is an excellent film that transcends the normal bounds of film as we commonly know it.
The Blu-ray release from Warner Home Video features a solid transfer and a nice collection of behind the scenes featurettes.
Of course the DVD and UltraViolet Copy Code are included for good measure.
The retail price is $35.99, or order it right now at Amazon for $24.99, saving 31%!
- A Film Like No Other: See how three visionary directors come together, divided their tasks and created a cohesive masterpiece
- Everything Is Connected: The cast and filmmakers delve deeper into the connections that tie the story together
- An Impossible Adaptation: The genesis of the novel and the unlikely adaptation to the big screen
- The Essence of Acting: The actors portray multiple roles in the film
- Spaceships, Slaves & Sextets: Unravel the mysteries, themes and subtext of cloud atlas with the cast, filmmakers, author and producers
- The Bold Science Fiction of Cloud Atlas: Explore the film’s cutting edge future with tales of cloning and extraplanetary exploration
- Eternal Recurrence: Love, Life and Longing in Cloud Atlas – The different stages of love and relationship throughout the film
Future. Present. Past. Everything is connected. From the creators of the Matrix trilogy and the director of Run Lola Run. 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. The story is a time-shifting weave of six interlinking narratives, with diverse settings from the savagery of a Pacific Island in the 1850s to a dystopian Korea of the near future. Based on the best-selling novel “Cloud Atlas” written by David Mitchell.