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Cloud Atlas Blu-ray Review

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#1 of 8 Cameron Yee

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Posted May 08 2013 - 05:24 PM

Cloud Atlas Blu-ray Review

Six stories spanning almost 500 years, interwoven to create one compelling meditation on the nature of human existence, is both Cloud Atlas' ambition and accomplishment. It debuts next week on Blu-ray with a high definition presentation worthy of its cinematic spectacle, though an oddly limited set of bonus material suggests there might have been a more substantial release planned for store shelves.


Cover Art


Studio: Warner Brothers

Distributed By: N/A

Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

Rating: R

Run Time: 2 Hr. 52 Min.

Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, UltraViolet

Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

Region: A

Release Date: 05/14/2013

MSRP: $35.99




The Production Rating: 4.5/5

A word of warning: For a good third of Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tow Twyker’s co-directorial effort Cloud Atlas, you’ll be wondering what the heck is going on. Adapted from David Mitchell’s award-winning novel of the same name, the film doesn’t try to duplicate the book’s unique structure, which interlocks six stories from different time periods into one narrative, but it undertakes a juggling act of concurrent storytelling just the same.

Spanning almost 500 years, the film's multiple tales range from the 1850s, when an earnest young lawyer named Adam Ewing (Jim Sturgess) sees the cruelty of the slave trade first hand, to the 24th Century, where a humble goat herder named Zachry (Tom Hanks) struggles to keep himself and his family alive in a post-apocalyptic island civilization. The points in between – 1930s England with aspiring composer Robert Frobisher (Ben Whishaw), 1970s San Francisco with investigative journalist Luisa Rey (Halle Berry), present day London with vanity press publisher Timothy Cavendish (Jim Broadbent), and 22nd Century Neo-Seoul, Korea with genetically engineered slave Sonmi~451 (Doona Bae) – fill in some blanks, but in an impressionistic, tone poem kind of way. Take a step back, and look at things from an angle and you’ll see shapes and patterns that unify each of the stories and characters, but look too hard for concrete connections, and you’re bound to be frustrated.

Which brings us to the secondary zone of confusion: Members of the cast show up as different characters in each of the stories, playing roles both major and minor. As the most visual tie between the narratives, the repeat appearances – with the performers sometimes buried under layers of old age and/or ethnic makeup – makes it tempting to base one’s understanding of the film on that alone. But while a character in one story has an obvious reflection in another (e.g. Hanks’ 1970s nuclear plant scientist Isaac Sachs to the goat herder Zachry), sometimes the performer’s other roles amount to little more than cameos (Hanks also makes appearances as a slimy hotel manager and a cockney street thug). However, focus on the more prominent parts an actor plays, and don’t try to link every appearance together, and the point will be clear. Though the heavy makeup can be particularly distracting, especially when the result is an obvious facial prosthetic or wig, it’s a reasonable way to illustrate the persistence of souls, the various paths they can take from age to age, and the sense of déjà vu that comes when past lives connect and reconnect. What also looked kind of hokey in previews benefits from the feature’s nearly three hour run time, as the novelty of reappearing actors eventually gives way to the more compelling tenets of the film.

Notwithstanding their more confusing elements, viewers should find the six stories and the recurring themes around love and freedom rather well defined, if not seamlessly integrated through some skillful editing. Though some have criticized the individual plots as hackneyed, it’s the repetition of what occurs that’s significant. From the 19th Century slave trade to the collapse of civilization 500 years later, the film depicts a cycle of pain and oppression, both institutional and interpersonal, with no real change. An opportunity for a clean slate is offered as a remedy, but ultimately the film shows human bonds as the only real antidote to the unshakeable human condition. Coming at the end of something as complex as Cloud Atlas’s interwoven storytelling, this well tread notion manages to avoid cliché through sheer simplicity. And while the audience will be drawn in by the film’s myriad technical and visual elements, given the directors’ established skill at creating cinematic spectacle, it’s ultimately the more subtle and even unspoken messages that will resonate and inspire repeated viewing.



Video Rating: 5/5  3D Rating: NA

Correctly framed at 2.40:1 and presented in 1080p with the AVC codec, the transfer features exceptional black levels, an uncompromised range of contrast, and impeccable color depth. Along with sometimes startling clarity and detail, viewers will be particularly moved by a white pebble beach set against a cobalt blue ocean; the skyline of an advanced, neon metropolis; and the lush, island forests of an untamed civilization. Given the variety of the settings and time periods, there’s plenty of material to showcase, and the transfer presents each with amazing quality.



Audio Rating: 4.5/5

Dialogue in the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is consistently crisp, clear and intelligible, even with some actors having heavier accents. Surround channels offer more in the way of ambient effects than dynamic, directional ones, but sound properly balanced and immersive in each of the time periods. LFE doesn’t troll especially deep, but a few key action sequences engage the subwoofer more heavily and there’s a consistent depth and fullness throughout.



Special Features Rating: 3/5

Though there’s almost an hour of behind the scenes featurettes – a few of which are interesting, but most kind of perfunctory given their brevity – the bonus material seems oddly truncated. Normally Warner Brothers’ “Focus Points” videos go hand-in-hand with a picture-in-picture commentary feature, but there’s no such item here. If the film had performed better at the box office, I would take this as a sign there’s a collector’s edition forthcoming. But given the reality, it seems more like bigger plans for the Blu-ray special features were ultimately scrapped. However, this is nothing more than conjecture on my part.

Focus Points
  • A Film Like No Other (7:15, HD): An overview of the film’s concepts and production challenges.
  • Everything is Connected (8:00, HD): Insights into the stories and their common themes.
  • The Impossible Adaptation (9:07, HD): Thoughts on the source material and the adaptation process with author David Mitchell and the filmmakers.
  • The Essence of Acting (7:20, HD): The experience of playing multiple characters.
  • Spaceships, Slaves and Sextets (8:08, HD): The connection between the stories.
  • The Bold Science Fiction of Cloud Atlas (7:14, HD): A look at the film’s science fiction concepts and production design.
  • Eternal Recurrence: Love, Life and Longing in Cloud Atlas (7:39, HD): A look at the film’s relationships and personal connections.
Ultraviolet Digital Copy: Redeem by May 14, 2015.

DVD Copy



Overall Rating: 4/5

Warner Home Video delivers an impeccable high definition experience for the Wachowski and Twyker co-directorial effort Cloud Atlas, a film that is initially befuddling, but ultimately resonant in both its scope and message. The bonus material pulls back the curtain on the making of the film, to an extent, but given the nature of the production, there's certainly more that could have been shared. Nevertheless, the feature and its presentation make the Blu-ray worth at least a rental, if not an outright purchase, even though its story may remain a mystery for some.


Reviewed By: Cameron Yee


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#2 of 8 mpompey

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Posted May 08 2013 - 05:31 PM

I cannot wait for this Blu-ray to come out. I loved this film in the theater. The NEo Seoul sequences were breathtaking and inspiring as well. I love the take on the incidents there inspiring a religion hundreds of years later, where none of the adherents even understood what they were worshipping.

 

I can't wait to put this in my room.



#3 of 8 Ronald Epstein

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Posted May 09 2013 - 02:34 AM

I spoke about this film in other threads.

 

I can talk about it forever as there is so much to say.

 

To keep it short, this is a remarkable film.  One must exercise

a little patience watching and soaking it all in, but as you move

along in its story, you realize the film's brilliance.  

 

With every word I continue to write about Cloud Atlas, I realize

more and more how much I love this film.  

 

Very happy that Cameron had a positive reaction to what he watched.


Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#4 of 8 Reggie W

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Posted May 09 2013 - 03:41 AM

The comments about this film have me very curious and also feeling like I missed an opportunity to see a film that really should have been seen in a theater. I am sort of fascinated by the gulf between people that find this film an amazing and moving experience and those that feel it is absolute garbage. 

 

The reason I never went to see it in a theater was the clips and trailers did nothing for me...just nothing about them drew me in. Though I did not read the reviews I did see that primarily the film was getting poor notices and that left me with little interest in seeing it combined with my lack of reaction to the clips. I pretty much ignored it until I began reading reactions to it from viewers that went in a totally opposite direction from critics. 

 

Obviously now I plan on seeing it to weigh my own feelings on it. Three hour science fiction films seem to be a rarity and rarer still three hour science fiction films that actually are attempting to communicate complex ideas and not in a "bash you in the face" with them way but in a subtle manner that does not explain everything but allows the audience room to ponder them.

 

For this reason I feel bad I did not support this film by going to the theater to watch it.  



#5 of 8 Ronald Epstein

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Posted May 09 2013 - 04:22 AM

Reggie,

 

A favor, please....

 

Let us know your experiences with this film, good or bad, after

you see it.  


Ronald J Epstein
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#6 of 8 Steve Tannehill

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Posted May 09 2013 - 12:11 PM

Thanks for the review, Cameron.  This was my favorite movie I saw in the theater last year.

 

Since I don't get my discs early anymore, I bought the iTunes digital copy last week in high definition, and I have watched it twice so far.  The film holds up to repeat viewings.  I can't wait to show it one Friday night to my friends.

 

The iTunes version comes with 4 of the blu-ray focus points as iTunes Extras, specifically:

 

  • A Film Like No Other
  • Everything is Connected 
  • Spaceships, Slaves and Sextets
  • The Bold Science Fiction of Cloud Atlas

The picture quality of the 1080p iTunes video was quite good, and the lossy 5.1 sound was acceptable.  I'm still getting the blu-ray, though.



#7 of 8 Reggie W

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Posted May 10 2013 - 03:45 AM

I will certainly comment once I have seen the film, Ronald. I enjoy the science fiction genre but it seems so many films that come out of that genre now are just meant to be some sort of action extravaganza more than thoughtful science fiction. So I'm very much looking forward to spending an evening with this picture.



#8 of 8 mike caronia

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Posted May 16 2013 - 08:10 AM

Thanks for the review Cameron!

Saw this in the theater and loved it.

Picked up the Blu the other day, haven't had time to check it out..

Would have loved a commentary from all 3 directors, oh well.

Still looking forward to revisiting this wonderful film.







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