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DirectorLana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski
Release Date(s)2012 (May 14, 2013)
Studio(s)Warner Home Video
Cloud Atlas continues the Wachowskis’ tradition of not sticking to formula and creating films that are both beautiful and sometimes challenging. I’ve never read the original novel by David Mitchell, but as I understand it, it’s an incredibly complex book and one that is impossible to fully adapt for the big screen. So it’s definitely a hurtle for the Wachowskis to jump over. Whether or not they’ve succeeded, others can be the judge. But as is, Cloud Atlas is an incredible film.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the film. I had heard both the negative and the positive about it, but like many films I haven’t seen, I intentionally avoid deep criticism and spoilers about them. I want to walk in on something fresh and I have an honest reaction to it, at least as much as possible. Knowing a lot about a film before seeing it tends to ruin that reaction, and as a consequence, most people don’t get an honest reaction and miss out on true works of art. I have a feeling that Cloud Atlas is and will continue to suffer that fate. If any film can truly be compared to Blade Runner in terms of people’s reaction to it and how it will likely be fated as a bit of cult film, it’s Cloud Atlas.
Despite a lot negative criticism towards it, I found the film to be a masterpiece. It’s one of those films that I immediately wanted to go back and watch over again, which is a rare thing for me. I look at it that way I would any piece of art. For me, it’s like a deep, detail-embedded painting. It may not be conventional and the brush strokes may be unusual, but I took much more away from it than ten other paintings like it. I know that sounds extremely pretentious and I apologize, but that’s the best way I can describe it. Trying to explain it on a narrative level won’t do you much good. In a nutshell, it’s about how characters affect each other over the course of time, leading different lives that lead to different conclusions. Putting a label on it is pointless too, but if I had to, I’d say it’s mostly science fiction, but it’s also romantic, dramatic and action-oriented. Most people are likely to complain about its length and the number of same actors playing different roles in make-up, but I was very caught up in it. I would go so far as to say that it tops The Matrix as the Wachowskis’ best work, which I’m sure is controversial to some, but I digress.
For the film’s debut on Blu-ray, the team behind the film’s transfer has saw fit to give us a breathtaking presentation of a very strong-looking film. The film’s cinematography was already amazing, but this transfer only heightens the experience. Film grain is subtle and even, image detail is immaculate, skin tones are perfect, the color palette is robust with mostly deep blacks and both brightness and contrast are well-balanced. You really couldn’t ask for much more with the picture quality, that’s for sure. The film’s soundtrack comes in three options: English 5.1 DTS-HD and both French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. The DTS track’s sound field is quite enveloping without being overly aggressive. Dialogue is perfectly clear and audible and put to use over the multiple channels. Sound effects and score figure prominently into the story, and while the rear speakers don’t figure into the sound design all that much, there’s still plenty of ambience and it keeps things opened up. LFE doesn’t pack a whole lot of punch, but when it does kick in, you will certainly notice. Overall, it’s a fantastic A/V presentation that should leave little to nothing to be desired, and is damn near reference quality material. There are also subtitles in English SDH, French and Spanish for those who might need them.
The disc’s extras are unsurprisingly light, and a little disappointing. There are actually seven featurettes under the heading Focus Points with a Play All option, totaling about an hour’s worth of material. The featurettes are A Film Like No Other, Everything is Connected, The Impossible Adaptation, The Essence of Acting, Spaceships, Slaves & Sextets, The Bold Science Fiction of Cloud Atlas and Eternal Recurrence: Love, Life and Longing in Cloud Atlas. There’s also a paper insert included with an Ultraviolet code. On the DVD, you’ll find an English 5.1 Dolby Digital track instead of a DTS track and only one of the Focus Points: A Film Like No Other. It’s definitely a light package of material to go through if you enjoyed the film enough and want learn more about the making of it, and it doesn’t help that it tends to overlap. Having a compact release with a nearly 3 1/2 hour film likely had something do with it. Perhaps we’ll see an even better release of the film sometime down the road. I certainly hope so.
I walked away from Cloud Atlas feeling both enlightened and inspired, which is what all great pieces of art should do, and I do look at the film that way. It captured my imagination and had me glued to the screen the entire time I was watching it, and I hope it will do the same for you too. It’s a film that many people should see and with its great release on Blu-ray, it shouldn’t be a problem. Do check it out.
- Tim Salmons