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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
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.
Violence & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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."
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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).
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Products & Purchases
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.
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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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
By normal standards, this is a disappointing movie, but it isn't an ordinary movie. If the six stories were disentangled and laid out separately, it would be clear that none of them has much depth or surprise. Cloud Atlas 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 since Cloud Atlas is 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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.