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With your head in the 'Cloud'

Published November 08. 2012 05:02PM

"Cloud Atlas" is an epic in concept, screenplay, casting, directing, cinematography, editing, sound and production design. "Cloud Atlas" is akin to the Hollywood epics of Cecil B. DeMille.

"Cloud Atlas" recalls what big studios films do best and yet it's an indie film at heart, albeit one with a $100-million budget. "Cloud Atlas" shows us new ways of looking at the world, and new ways of thinking about the universe.

This is bold, ground-breaking cinema. It's the kind of film you may need to and want to see more than once. "Cloud Atlas" is cinematic poetry.

Perhaps what's most fascinating about "Cloud Atlas" is the multiple roles played by leading actors, Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, who each play six roles. It's as if you're watching a film by a theater repertoire group.

Six roles each are also played by Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Surgess and Doona Bae.

Susan Sarandon, Ben Whishaw, Keith David, James D'Arcy, Xun Zhou, David Gyasi each play three or more roles.

Each actor is nearly unrecognizable, creating a distinctive character for each role.

With six parallel story lines, watching "Cloud Atlas" is like channel surfing, but not as annoying.

While you might not always follow the multiple plot lines, which span the mid-1800s to mid-2100s, dialogue, voiceover and action keeps you involved. Let the film and its extraordinary images wash over you.

To begin to describe the plot would require this entire page. Suffice it to say the characters weave in and out of each others' lives, and that events span centuries and the Earth and beyond: Pacific Islands, 1849; Cambridge, 1936; San Francisco, 1973; London, 2012; and Korea, 2144. It all seems to have impacts well beyond our 24-7 news-cycle world.

Directors Lana and Andy Wachowski ("The Matrix" and its sequels) and Tom Tykwer ("Run Lola Run"), who co-wrote the screenplay based on the 2004 novel by David Mitchell, move the film at a fever pitch.

Call it "The Matrix Unloaded."

The philosophical lynchpin of "Cloud Atlas" is that everything and everyone is connected. "Cloud Atlas" is not so much a treatise on reincarnation as a plea for understanding, commitment to one's ideals and helping one's fellow man and woman.

There are many ruminative pronouncements: "Truth is singular. It's versions are mistruths."

And: "Our lives are not our own."

At the film's center is a beautiful score by Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek and Tom Tykwer, with the piece, "The Cloud Atlas Sextet," inspiring the film's title.

Get your head into "Cloud Atlas."

"Cloud Atlas," MPAA Rated R (Restricted. Under 17 Requires Accompanying Parent Or Adult Guardian) for violence, language, sexuality, nudity and some drug use; Genre: Drama, Mystery, Science-Fiction; Run time; 2 hours, 52 mins; Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.

Credit Readers Anonymous: Stay for the beginning of the "Cloud Atlas" end credits to see images of the variety of roles the leading actors play.

Box Office, Nov. 2: Despite the devastation of super-storm "Wreck-It Sandy" in northeastern United States, "Wreck-It Ralph" demolished the competition, opening at No. 1 with $49.1 million, keeping "Flight" circling at No. 2, opening with $25 million, dropping "Argo" back to No. 3, with $10.2 million, $75.8 million, four weeks, and holding "The Man with the Iron Fists" at No. 4, opening with $8.2 million.

5. "Taken 2," $6 million, $125.6 million, five weeks; 6. "Cloud Atlas," $5.2 million, $18.2 million, two weeks; 7. "Hotel Transylvania," $4.5 million, $137.5 million, six weeks; 8. "Paranormal Activity 4," $4.3 million, $49.5, three weeks; 9. "Here Comes the Boom," $3.6 million, $35.5 million, four weeks; 10. "Silent Hill: Revelation 3D," $3.3 million, $13.9 million, two weeks

Unreel, Nov. 9:

"Skyfall," PG-13: Sam Mendes directs the 50th in the James Bond franchise. Daniel Craig reprises his "Quantum of Solace" role as Bond. Judi Dench is M and Javier Bardem plays a villain in the action film. The cast includes Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes and Albert Finney.

"Lincoln," PG-13: Steven Spielberg directs. Tony Kushner wrote the script based on Doris Kearns Goodwin's book, "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln." Daniel Day-Lewis stars as Lincoln. Sally Fields is Mary Todd Lincoln. The stellar cast includes David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Hal Holbrook, Tommy Lee Jones, John Hawkes and Jackie Earle Haley.

Read previous movie reviews by Paul Willistein at the Times-News web site, Email Paul Willistein and on Facebook.

Four Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes

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