Three directors transform an unfilmable novel into the first $100million art house blockbuster
Six stories. Three directors. One unfilmable novel. Cloud Atlas should be an absolute mess. Only, it's not. Instead, Cloud Atlas is an ambitious $100million mix of blockbuster spectacle and art house ambition – the likes of which we'll probably never see again.
You want the plot? Okay: in 1849 a young lawyer tries to help a stowaway slave while battling with infection by a parasitic worm. In 1936 a bisexual musician flees to Edinburgh to work with composer Vyvayan Ayrs on his masterpiece. In San Francisco in 1973 a journalist uncovers a terrifying nuclear conspiracy. In 2012 a publisher finds himself tricked into being confined to a nursing home. In 2144 a genetically-engineered clone discovers the bitter truth about the fate of her kind. And in an unspecified future, a survivor of 'The Fall' must face up to his worst fears...
Directors Tom (Run Lola Run) Tykwer and Andy and Lana Wachowski (The Matrix trilogy) certainly had their work cut out transforming David Mitchell's time-hopping, genre-spanning novel into a film. But, by honing in on the central themes (freedom, love, how our actions impact on one another through time) and directly intercutting between the various time periods, the trio have conjured up a uniquely cinematic experience. Love it or loathe it, Cloud Atlas is a film that needs to be seen.
Picture: Warner Home Video's hi-def treatment of Cloud Atlas is very impressive indeed. Despite the amount of video content squeezed onto the disc, there's absolutely no sign of serious technical wobbles such as artefacts or digital noise.
What you do get is a bold, colour-saturated AVC 2.40:1 1080p encode that excels when it comes to fine textures and subtle graduations in hue and tone. Only the slightly elevated black levels, holding back the available shadow detail, stop Cloud Atlas from navigating its way to a perfect score.
Picture rating: 5/5
Audio: Cloud Atlas comes to Blu-ray with an energetic and immersive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack. Each of the six stories gives the sound mix something different to do – from the atmospheric ambience of the creaking interior of a 19th Century sailing ship to laser fire zipping around the soundfield as Sonmi-451 and Commander Hae-Joo Chang flee from pursuing soldiers in 22nd Century Neo Seoul. The attention to detail is excellent – a first-rate mix.
Audio rating: 4.5/5
Extras: With Cloud Atlas clocking in at the best part of three hours, it's not exactly surprising to discover that this 50GB Blu-ray platter isn't over-burdened with bonus goodies.
The only material on offer is a collection of seven 'Focus Point' behind-the-scenes featurettes, with a combined running time of a little under 55 minutes. Here the three directors, the main actors and even author David Mitchell all get to chime in on various aspects of the film and the original novel, as well as the themes and concepts they deal with. It's all enjoyable and informative stuff – however, you will come away feeling that a film of this scale deserves a lot more attention.
Extras rating: 1.5/5
We say: A dizzying piece of cinematic spectacle served up on a platter that makes the film all the easier to admire
Cloud Atlas, Warner Home Video, All-region BD, £23 Approx
HCC VERDICT: 4/5
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