The film tells six tales set across a span of about half a Millennium.
PictureCloud Atlas hits UK shores with a Region Free Blu-ray that boasts the same excellent 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation that adorned the US release a couple of months ago, rendered in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1 widescreen. Detail is stunning throughout, allowing for well defined edges but no overt edge enhancement, impressive fine object detail with no discernibly intrusive DNR application, and decent depth with no obvious softness. The piece boasts a fine layer of suitably filmic grain that lends the film further texture. The colour scheme is broad and rich, with lots of rich and vibrant ‘future’ tones, and plenty of very natural, organic colours on either side. Certainly each era is rendered in its own specific style, with a classic look to the oldest period; a wood-based vintage to the next portion; some seeping sepia in the gritty 70s section; and more and more overt primaries in the future element, with the regressed portion returning to the more natural tones of the very first chapter. Black levels are strong and allow for decent shadowing and I can’t think of a reason not to award this a perfect 10.
SoundThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is almost as impressive, providing a potent, though often understated aural mix which skilfully juggles the quieter sequences with the more boisterous action scenes. The dialogue drives the majority of the drama, and is thankfully never less than clear and coherent, emanating predominantly from across the frontal array. Effects are myriad, lending atmosphere to the future future sequences, and promoting claustrophobia in the lift sequence purely through the lack of overt noise. Of course the Wachowski-driven action becomes furiously exciting, with visual and aural effects hurtling at you – the full soundscape in use. But it’s in the quieter moments that the picture shines, as well as through the use of the soundtrack which, for the most part, works well to build tension, particularly in the multi-climax latter half of the piece. With plenty of LFE input, this is a strong, commendable offering that edges into demo territory, even if it is far from the flawless track required to warrant a perfect 10.
ExtrasIn terms of extras, whilst far from bare-bones, Cloud Atlas is somewhat disappointing with its scattershot selection of 7 brief Featurettes. Whilst one might argue that this is quite substantial given the total runtime of almost an hour, the piecemeal presentation, overt repetition and frustrating fluffiness generally downgrades the worth of these pieces. Still, with enough background material to keep fans quite until a Special Edition pops up, it will be hard to use the marginally underwhelming extras as an excuse for avoiding picking up this interesting flick.
VerdictWildly ambitious, this epic multi-stranded adaptation of David Mitchell’s equally sprawling 2004 bestseller marks a distinct return to form for the Wachowski writer/director siblings, who haven’t made anything this impressive since their first Matrix outing. Teaming up with Run Lola Run’s Tom Tykwer, the resulting effort is a grand sci-fi fable which interlinks six different stories taking place across half a Century, with interweaving plots, common themes and characters made familiar through the utilisation of the same core set of a dozen actors across each of the tales. Daring and somewhat unprecedented in its approach to such an ambitious subject-matter, the film is certainly not without its flaws, but hopefully you’ll be able to get past them and see the merits behind this unusual sci-fi feature. Recommended.
On Region Free UK Blu-ray, we get the same stunning video and audio that adorned the earlier US release, as well as a decent if marginally underwhelming set of extras. Fans should still consider this a must-have purchase, and I would also recommend it as a blind-buy; it’s the kind of movie which everybody should see, and which may well grow on many. The only question is as to whether we might ever get a more impressive set of extras on some kind of deluxe edition... watch this space.
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