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Feature
Future. Present. Past. Everything is connected. Cloud Atlas, based on the New York Times best-selling novel of the same name and written by David Mitchell, is 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.

 Cloud Atlas
Seeing as it spans six different eras and lives, it may take a short time to adjust to the switching time frames and narrative flow of the picture, but once you're in-sync with it and begin to see even the smallest of connections Cloud Atlas is a rewarding picture, punctuated by some astounding imagery--especially in its' Wachowski directed sci-fi portions--and excellent performances from the likes of Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent and Jim Sturgess among others. Hugo Weaving in particular looks to be having fun across all six of his villainous performances, with his best take on Nurse Ratchet being the mostly enjoyable of the film.

Leading up to the film's release, and reiterated throughout the features on the disc, a lot was made of the supposed unfilmable nature of Cloud Atlas. I'm not sure I buy that any novel is unfilmable, and just taking a cursory look at a couple of such labeled adaptations from the past few years, such as Life of Pi and Watchmen, I think all it takes to pull off such a seemingly daunting task is the right creative force, or forces in the case of Cloud Atlas. Make no mistake, Tom Tykwer and The Wachowski's film is as dense and concentrated with story, imagery and thematic elements as they come, but they've managed to create a film that is as beautiful in its' execution as it is moving to the senses, and one that begs for the chance to be seen a second time.

To illustrate just how intricate the movie can at times become, below you'll find an infographic sent out by Warner Home Video's marketing department, who are obviously cognisant of the potential problems the film may present to some viewers. I only include it here to make a point, and do not suggest you give it the once over until you've actually seen the film since there are a number of spoilers and references that may go understood without seeing the film. I do, however, suggest giving it a look after you've watched Cloud Atlas as it may clear a few things up and answer some lingering questions or problems you might have after only one viewing.

 Cloud Atlas
Video
Warner Home Video's supplied 1080p, AVC-encoded video transfer for Cloud Atlas is reference quality, there's no doubt about it. I was at first skeptical that the transfer would hold up given the length of the film and the nearly one hour of high definition extras included on the disc, but after sitting down for a few minutes those thoughts drifted away. It's a visually arresting film with beautiful cinematography, special effects, sets and costumes, and everything right down to the thin layer of film grain is highly detailed without any defects. Contrast, color representation and black levels are very well done, and I couldn't detect anything wrong with the transfer like blocking, edge enhancement or aliasing that might detract from the picture. Being a newly released theatrical film, there also aren't any defects in the video that might have been carried over from the source used. Overall this is a great movie to show off on your home theater set up.

 Cloud Atlas
Audio
Warner's included DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is excellent in terms of what the film is and not in terms of what you might expect it to be. I was quite surprised by the lack of activity going on in the surround and LFE channels, but I was also expecting a much more action packed and lively film than what Cloud Atlas actually is. There's nothing wrong with that though, but keep your expectations for the audio more in line with what you would normally expect from a serious drama than the latest summer blockbuster. The most important element in the sound design here is the dialogue, and the track handles that aspect beautifully with always intelligible sound that is never drowned out by the more audacious aspects of the feature. When the surround channels are employed, mostly in the seafaring and later sci-fi portions of the movie they do not disappoint and are quite enveloping. I couldn't detect any egregious defects in the audio at all, so there's nothing here that wold hamper your enjoyment of the film. Overall this is a very good reference quality track that, while not as rambunctious as say something like The Matrix, suits the film very well.

 Cloud Atlas
Extras
The disc contains seven, high definition Focus Points featurettes ( A Film Like No Other, Everything Is Connected, The Impossible Adaptation, The Essence of Acting, Spaceships, Slaves and Sextets, The Bold Science Fiction of Cloud Atlas, and Eternal Recurrence: Love, Life and Longing) which amount to right around an hour's worth of behind the scenes footage and musing from the cast and crew, discussing everything from the difficulty in adapting the seemingly unfilmable novel, how the stories intersect and intertwine, production design, and what it was like to act in a film where the cast were required to play up to six different parts. I wasn't expecting something as substantial as a commentary track seeing as the Wachowskis were involved, but the included featurettes provide a lot of overlap between them and aren't long enough individually to get into the real meat of the film, so even though on paper it might seem like there's a good bit of information here there isn't as much as you might think. Still, there is a lot of good information to be had and they are worth a look. The two-disc set also contains a standard definition copy of the film on DVD, and an UltraViolet copy is also included.

 Cloud Atlas
Overall
Cloud Atlas is a very good and sometimes exhilarating film, bolstered by a fine cast and equally fine writing and direction. It takes some time to get acclimated to the flow of the movie, but if you stick with it you'll find the effort rewarding. Warner Home Video's Blu-ray release contains reference quality video and audio and some interesting extras, even though they don't quite have the heft of more substantial behind-the-scenes extras found elsewhere. Overall I'd recommend purchasing the disc if only because at a running time of nearly three hours you may not get the time to watch it a second time, and you will want to watch it a second time.

* - The images above are not representative of the Blu-ray quality of the actual disc.



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