Books & Review | Cole Garner Hill
Updated: Sep 25, 2012 01:38 PM EDT

cloud atlas

Based on the 2004 novel by David Mitchell, “Cloud Atlas” consists of six intertwined stories that take the audience from the remote South Pacific in the nineteenth century to a distant, post-apocalyptic future. (Photo : Warner Brothers)

We've received very little information on the upcoming new film, "Cloud Atlas," as of yet. But then, when a movie's story is so complex and unique it can only be described by terms like time-jumping, all-encompassing, and kaleidoscopic-fantasia, it's best to leave it to the trailer to explain whatever the story's really about. With the first TV spot for the movie out today, the story might not be any clearer, but damn if it doesn't look pretty.

With a narrative as wild and enigmatic as its creators, "Cloud Atlas" looks to be one of the 2012's most anticipated and talked about movie experiences. "I can't explain it. But I knew when I opened that door something important happened," says Tom Hanks in a newly released TV spot, summing up every hope we have for film.

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Based on the 2004 novel by British author David Mitchell, the "Cloud Atlas" consists of six intertwined stories that take the audience from the remote South Pacific in the nineteenth century to a distant, post-apocalyptic future. Each tale is revealed to be a story that is read (or observed) by the main character in the next. Many of the leading actors in the film portray several different people in different eras, with different hair color, and sometimes appearing as a different race, and even gender. Got it?

The film casts Halle Berry, who is biracial, and Chinese actress Xun Zhou in some race-bending roles. Both of them portray white women at two different points in the epically long two-hour and 44-minute cinematic journey. Incidentally, South Korean actress Doona Bae -- who is getting a lot of buzz for her performance in "Atlas" -- also transforms into a white woman at a certain point.

Berry plays a litany of characters in the film, but the white woman she portrays is Jocasta Ayrs, a not-so-true, rather kinky wife of a composer (Jim Broadbent).

And Zhou's white character is the wife of Tom Hanks in the far future when the world has gone to hell.

Along with crossing racial lines with the help of heavy makeup -- and in some instances prosthetics and eye contacts -- Hugo Weaving and James D'Arcy bend their genders by playing women. Weaving is said to be especially memorable as the evil Nurse Noakes.

And Berry takes it even a step further --she plays an old Korean male doctor at one point in the film. To make all the race-bending more fun, Jim Sturgess also transforms into an Asian character.

To call a film with such a sprawling scope just "ambitious" would be a tremendous understatement. Not to mention "Cloud Atlas" has a stellar cast and visionary directors on board. The movie will star Halle Berry, Tom Hanks, Susan Sarandon, Keith David, Jim Sturgess, Bae Doona, Ben Whishaw, Hugo Weaving, and Jim Broadbent. Having built their careers on eye-popping, technology-pushing spectacle the Wachowski siblings ("The Matrix" trilogy) and Tom Twkyer ("Run Lola Run") will direct.

Mitchell's "Cloud Atlas" won the British Book Awards Literary Fiction Award, the Richard & Judy Book of the Year award, and was short-listed for the 2004 Booker Prize, Nebula Award, and Arthur C. Clarke Award.

Buzz from recent secret screenings suggests we'll have to just wait and see it to even begin understanding it. And even then you still might be left scratching your head.

"Cloud Atlas" opens on October 26th.

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