Cloud Atlas Movie Poster Image

Cloud Atlas



Enormous scale and spectacle, but weak characters, story.
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2012
  • Running Time: 172 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Amid the sometimes convoluted storytelling, the film promotes the ideas that all things/people are connected and that love can transcend space and time. There are small examples of bravery and trying to help others throughout.

Positive role models

None of the film's many characters has enough screen time to achieve much depth or resonance. But a few of them are good and brave, and a few fairly strong female characters emerge. One character has a kind of "bad conscience" demon that tries to convince him to do selfish and/or cowardly things. At first he gives into the demon's commands, but eventually he learns to stand up for himself and do things for others. Some characters risk their lives for what they believe in.


Many of the main characters die, and many are shot or stabbed, with spurting blood. One dies in an airplane explosion. There are bloody attacks and battles with blades and guns, a few one-on-one fights, and threats; both children and adults die. A character commits suicide with a gun (put in mouth). A man throws another man from a high balcony. A bad guy shoots a dog (off screen). A little girl is shown to be fatally sick, with a poisoned, swollen foot.


At least one female character appears topless, and there are two sex scenes (it's questionable that the act is consensual in one), with no other nudity shown. There's some strong innuendo in one scene as a rude customer in a futuristic restaurant uses a squeeze bottle of mayonnaise and pretends to ejaculate on a waitress' back. There's a scene in which a man escapes his lover's bedroom, presumably after sex; they share a kiss. In another scene, sex is interrupted by a cat, and there's some innuendo around the term "p---y."


Sporadic strong language includes "f--k," "s--t," "c--k," "p---y," "hell," "ass," "damn," "goddamn," racial slurs like the "N" word and "wetback," and "Jesus" (as an exclamation).


Samsung phone is shown, but not prominently.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Many characters drink alcohol (ranging from beer to wine to harder drinks), mostly in a social way. Once or twice, characters overindulge in a comic way, but only briefly. In one segment, the main characters smoke some pot. Some characters smoke cigarettes in a background way. In a futuristic sement, a character is addicted to a drug known as "soap" and overdoses.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Cloud Atlas -- the Wachowskis' massive sci-fi epic that takes place over six time periods, with several actors (including Tom Hanks and Halle Berry) playing roles in each -- has strong fantasy violence, including bloody attacks and battles with both guns and blades. Main characters die, and one commits suicide. Language is strong, though sporadic, with several uses of both "f--k" and "s--t." There are a few sex scenes, with one female appearing topless. Many characters drink, a few smoke cigarettes, and two smoke pot. Like Avatar, the movie's sheer, overwhelming size, scale, and spectacle may appeal to many audiences, and teens will likely be clamoring to see it; whether they'll enjoy it is less clear.

What's the story?

With six interwoven stories, CLOUD ATLAS attempts to show how acts in one time period can resonate in another. In the 19th century, a notary (Jim Sturgess) receives mysterious treatments from a doctor (Tom Hanks) and befriends an escaped slave. In 1931, a young musician (Ben Whishaw) goes to work for a legendary composer (Jim Broadbent). In 1975, a journalist (Halle Berry) investigates a nuclear power company. In the present day, a publisher (Broadbent) escapes some gangsters by checking into a retirement home but can't check back out. In the near future, a clone waitress (Doona Bae) learns that she has a greater destiny. And in the far future, a simple tribesman (Hanks) receives a visit from a technologically advanced woman (Berry).

Is it any good?


By normal standards, Cloud Atlas is a disappointing movie. If the six stories were disentangled and laid out separately, it would be clear that none of them has much depth or surprise. The movie cuts corners to rush the multitude of shallow characters through their story arcs, which results in a general lack of rhythm. It becomes one long, monotonous thrum. What's more, the almost fetishistic use of makeup to distinguish the characters from the actors who play them is highly distracting, and the guessing game of who's behind which fake appendage becomes more interesting than the story itself.

But Cloud Atlas isn't a normal movie; it's an "epic folly" (like David Lynch's Dune). Many audiences will find themselves swept away and perhaps even enchanted by the movie's mere efforts to be huge and impressive. Throughout Hollywood history, size and scale have often triumphed over content, and, for many, the magnifying and inflating of these empty stories may make them seem resonant.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Cloud Atlas' violence. Does "fantasy" violence have a different impact than "realistic" violence? How does the violence contribute to the story in this movie?

  • How does the movie portray sex/sexual relationships?

  • If the movie's theme is "connections" and events resonating throughout time, what are some examples of this? Can you think of a way that this has happened in real life?

  • Which character is the most admirable? Which story affected you the most?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 26, 2012
DVD/Streaming release date:May 14, 2013
Cast:Halle Berry, Jim Sturgess, Tom Hanks
Directors:Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer
Studio:Warner Bros.
Topics:Magic and fantasy
Run time:172 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:violence, language, sexuality/nudity and some drug use

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 17 years old Written byPrincessCharmed797 November 1, 2012

Cloud Atlas

You may not find the relatively complex story overwhelming, but the sheer scale and magnificence of this 3-hour feature will certainly blow your mind away. An adaptation of the 2004 novel of the same name by David Mitchell, ‘Cloud Atlas’, the film has six interwoven stories from different eras. The film covers six stories set in different time periods – 19th century, early 20th century, late 20th century, early 21st century, dystopian 22nd century and 170 years after the ‘The Fall’. The story of a particular era is discovered by the main character of the story in the succeeding era. The principal character in all the stories has a distinct scar on some part of his/her body, which, kind of, goes on epitomize ‘afterlife and related theories’. The concept, albeit a novel adaptation, was quite formulaic, but the screenplay, by word, was magical. The official synopsis of the film reads, “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 main character of every story has an accomplice who plays an instrumental role in protecting him/her from evil forces (depending on the era that the story has been set in). You have an American notary rebelling against the ill-treatment of a the Moriori tribe, a young English musician going up against his ageing mentor, a young female journalist challenging the establishment, an on-the-run press publisher trying to escape out of a nursing home and a tribesman, living in the post-apocalyptic distant future, fighting an evil tribe. All the stories, characters and thoughts do not necessarily connect in the film, but by-and-large, the underlying theme in each of the stories strikes a chord with the viewer. The 20-minute finale is so gripping and poignant that it will force you to ponder over the film long after it’s over. The cast of the film is as grand as the word ‘ensemble’ is. Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Bae Doona, David Gyasi, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant among others , give stellar performances and most importantly, look their parts. The premise of the film is quite unique, so to speak, and the most difficult thing is to get your actors to be able to deliver convincing performances. Such films are never shot in the same order as the screenplay is written. So, huge credit for the work of genius that we see on the big screen should go to the editor, Alexander Berner. Cinematography for such a lavish film had to be gorgeous. The film could have been cut short by around 30 minutes. It could have left a stronger impact on the viewer. The run-time, close to 3 hours, of the film, is one of the few deterrents. The underlying message is wonderful. ‘Cloud Atlas’ just numbs you with its stories, thoughts, visuals and the enchanting music. Avoid judging the film mid-way. If you do go for it, sit back, watch it patiently, and make your assessment. It’s a sum of its parts. Magnificently visualized film, written and directed by Tom Tykwer, Lana Wachowski and Andy Wachowski, ‘Cloud Atlas’ impresses at many levels. Its complex storyline and the 3-hour-runtime are the two deterrents. However, it’s a beautiful film with a poignant message.
Adult Written bydanieldavidpeterson October 27, 2012

A fantastic film.

I wouldn't say that there is any extreme content in the overall course of this three hour movie. Language is minimal (one site counted 22 uses of the f-word), violence is present, but no over done (yes, there is also blood), and while there is nudity and sex, it is brief. The movie was fascinating, and one of the most unique films I have ever seen. Where CSM gets it wrong is while, yes, the stories probably don't stand much on their own; that is somewhat the point. They were not filmed separately for this reason. It's meant to be a connected story, shown through six different ones. While I would not say that I have come to understand everything about the film (it definitely requires a second viewing), it was an amazing movie and I will definitely be seeing it again.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Adult Written bychristian2011 October 28, 2012

A one of a kind movie with multiple stories and plots which eventually combines into one.

Cloud Atlas is a very rare kind of movie in which the multiple storylines eventually relate and combine into one. It shows that simple random acts of kindness can change the way humans look at things in an extraordinary way. The stories include letters from a composer to a loved one; the 1849 diary of an ocean voyage in the Pacific; a thriller about a murder in the nuclear power plant; a farce about a publisher in a nursing home; a rebellious clone in futuristic Korea; and the tale of the living in post apocalyptic Hawaii far in the future. Yet, all these characters have something connected, which is later revealed in the movie. This movie is rated R for a reason : the violence that occurs (infrequently) is intense, graphic and disturbing, plus it happens unexpectedly so it may shock some viewers. Examples : a man and his son are brutally killed by a clan of sadistic barbarians; an older man gets shot through the mouth in his apartment; a woman's dog get's shot (this is definitely upset animal lovers-like me); a man gets thrown off a balcony and you see him plumet down to the ground and blood/gore splatters everywhere (graphic and shocking); (SPOILERS) and the gruesome aftermath of Korean clones getting murdered and hung upside down (naked and skinned) in an industrial theme, which is told that their mutilated bodies are fed to the next generation of clones. Language is strong and frequent : multiple uses of the f-word, sh*t, religious profanities, and one use of c*nt. There are several scenes of graphic sexuality, one explicit with full frontal/back nudity, and the rest are heavily implied. There are some scenes where characters smoke cigarettes, marijuana, and drinks alcohol frequently. Nevertheless, Cloud Atlas is a movie that will leave you spellbinded.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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